Donning the graduation attire can be a little difficult when you are 90.
Instead of walking across an auditorium stage to receive his associate’s degree in applied science from the school’s dean, Phillips walked across his living room, adorned in cap and gown, and received the diploma from his son, Anthony Higgins, after the college mailed the items to him.
Surrounded by friends and family at his graduation party, Phillips tossed his graduation cap into the air just like any other graduate, although most of them “are probably a bit younger than I am,” he said.
“Getting a diploma is something I have dreamed about for many decades, but I never thought it would really happen,” Phillips said.
“I am now a proud college graduate of Queensborough Community College and am looking forward to being an alumni living in Douglasville.”
The World War II-era veteran attended Queensborough in the early 1960s, but left school after eyesight problems made it difficult for him to read and study.
He went to work for the New York Transit Authority where he ran a bus depot and supervised some 500 transit drivers before he retired in 1989.
After retirement, he spent time caring for his elderly mother, who died in 1995, and then a sister, who died in 2005.
After the death of his sister, Phillips told his daughter-in-law, Marsha Johnson-Higgins that, even though he was retired, he would love to return to school and earn his degree, his son said.
“Hoping to have Queensborough College maybe send Phillips an honorary degree because he was a student there, my wife called the college and explained the circumstances,” his son said.
However, after the college checked its records, Johnson-Higgins received a call that no honorary degree would be needed.
“They told her that my father had actually earned enough credits to be awarded an associate’s degree in applied science and be listed as part of its 2014 graduating class,” Phillips said.
To make his family graduation party as realistic as possible, the members of Phillips family who had earned degrees also wore their graduation caps and gowns to his party.
Phillips said although he will always be a proud New Yorker, he loves living in Douglasville.
Asked if he had any hobbies, Phillips said he uses his thumb a lot watching cable television and also enjoys playing with his grandchildren.
“I have accomplished one of my main goals in life, to have earned a college degree,” Phillips said.