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A 96-Year-Old WWII Vet Just Graduated College In Italy

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A 96-Year-Old WWII Vet Just Graduated College In Italy

Giuseppe Paternò graduated from the Università degli Studi di Palermo in Italy at the age of 96 at the top of his class and with a doctorate in philosophical and historical studies.

As reported by Reuters, Paternò's motto has always been, "Knowledge is like a suitcase that I carry with me, it is a treasure."

At his graduation, Rector Fabrizio Micari, one of his professors, said Paternò was "An extraordinary example of life and culture."

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Who is Giuseppe Paternò?

Paternò was born in 1923.

He has faced so much in his lifetime. He survived through childhood, wars, poverty, and now the coronavirus pandemic.

Paternò reportedly grew up in a very poor family in Sicily right before the Great Depression. Therefore, he only was able to attend basic schooling as a child. He did not graduate from high school until the age of 31 after the war was over.

He joined the navy and served his country during World War Two. Then Paternò was a railway worker when he returned home. 

He then got married and raised two children.

But he has never let anything hold him back from achieving his goals.

He said, "I am a normal person, like many others," which was why he wanted to go back to school.

Why did he go to school so late in life?

He started his pursuit for his degree in History and Philosophy when he was in his 90s because he never had the chance to study when he was younger, so, when he finally did have a chance, he took it.

He said, "I said, 'that's it, now or never,' and so in 2017, I decided to enroll." 

He also said, "I understood that it was a little late to get a three-year degree but I said to myself 'let's see if I can do it.'"

And he sure did.

Paternò as a student

As a student, he typed out every essay he had to write manually on a manual typewriter that his mother gave him when he retired from working on the railways in 1984.

For his classes, Paternò always ordered the print version of his books because he preferred it over the online option that his fellow classmates, albeit much younger, preferred.

And throughout his studies, he was never tempted to go to late-night parties, even though he was invited.

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How was his schooling impacted by the coronavirus?

Paternò had a hard time with the technological shift from in-person to virtual classes when the coronavirus pandemic began. But he was not that worried because he lived through war and everything else that came with it.

Once everyone around him began to realize the same thing, they began to worry, but everything was fine.

He said, "All of that strengthened us, all of my peer group, all of those who are still alive," and that "It didn't really scare us that much."

Paternò's graduation

Recently, Paternò passed his final exam, which made him the oldest graduate in history from an Italian university to receive a degree.

On July 29, 2020, Paternò graduated from college with a doctorate in "Philosophical and historical studies."

He graduated first in his class with the highest honors.

In congratulations, Rector Micari said, "On behalf of our entire academic community, I express my heartfelt and affectionate congratulations on this important achievement. We followed from the beginning of the brilliant university career of Dr. Paternò, which testifies to us how every result can be achieved with passion and will. I thank him for the extraordinary example of life, culture, and determination that he gives to all of us."

When he received his diploma, he also was given a traditional laurel wreath that is given to every Italian student as they graduate.

He was overwhelmed by the applause given by his teachers, fellow students, and family members.

He could not get over the other students who were cheering for him because most of them were 70 years younger.

What is Paternò's goal for the future?

He said, "My project for the future is to devote myself to writing; I want to revisit all the texts I didn't have a chance to explore further. This is my goal."

To have such an outlook on life is a blessing for Paternò as he continues to do something just for himself as he learns more about what he loves.

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Emily Francos is a writer who covers relationships, pop culture, and news topics.