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Who is Berea's 79 Year Old Graduate?

Forty nine years after he began his college career, Bill Cass receives his Bachelor of Science degree in technology and industrial arts at Berea College's 135th Commencement ceremony on May 27.

Bill Cass tries on his cap and gown prior to receiving his degree.

“It’s been hard, very hard,” Cass explains, ”but everyone has just been wonderful. They’ve leaned over backwards to help me get started and get through it.”

Aided by teaching assistants Samuel Imagie and Givenson Piard, Cass struggled through Rachel Mullinax's Principles of Accounting class... the single course he needed to complete in order to walk across the commencement stage and finish his college education.

"Bill was the hardest working student in the class," says Mullinax. "He didn't miss any classes except for two where he had doctors' appointments."

A native of Brodhead, Ky., Cass served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 – 1955. After his tour of duty, Cass studied at Berea from 1958 - 1965, taking classes and working part-time. Cass worked as a machinist and a farmer in central Kentucky for many years after he left Berea. Discouraged by one particularly difficult winter, Cass quit farming and he and his wife moved to Florida where he lived and worked in various jobs for 15 years.

Just last year, Cass and his wife returned to Berea, where a friend encouraged him to take the course he needed to graduate. “I couldn’t have found a better time,” Cass says. “I was tied up in something else all the time.”

"Seeing how dedicated and responsible he was, I could not but do my very best so he understands some of the concepts," says Piard, a junior accounting and finance major who tutored Cass. "I realized, after his telling me countless times, how much what I was doing meant to him."

"The most difficulty was associated with Mr. Cass having trouble seeing at times," adds Imagie. "Notwithstanding this, he was determined to overcome this obstacle and had a spirit of tenacity."

Now well into retirement, Cass sees no other college degrees in his future, but - as a true Berean - he has become a lifelong learner.

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