In a move that demonstrates that you can never be too old to learn, an 88-year-old grandpa graduated from university on the same day as his 23-year-old granddaughter.
Rene Neira had a good profession in finance and a family, but he had never completed his ambition of earning a bachelor’s degree in economics, the same topic his granddaughter Melanie Salazar was pursuing at the same institution. She said on the TODAY show:
“He was highly interested in the urban and economic development of San Antonio’s south side. He conducted a lot of civic engagement campaigning in the 1960s. He took part in demonstrations and marches and became interested in local politics. Since then, one of his life’s ambitions has been to obtain a degree in economics. He started education in the 1950s, then fell in love and raised a family. Then he returned in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, and it just so happened that he returned to school at the same time that I did.”
Both graduated from Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, with an Associate’s degree in 2016, and went on to the University of Texas at San Antonio.
ICYMI: Something very special happened this weekend at #UTSA Commencement: Rene Neira, 87, crossed the stage with his granddaughter, Melanie Salazar. She received her B.A. in Comms. He will earn his B.A. in Economics. Family goals!
— UTSA (@UTSA) December 13, 2021
Melanie went on to say:
“We never had courses together, but there were occasions when we would get together for lunch in the cafeteria or study side by side in the library. Having my grandfather on campus with me was a strange experience, but I was getting accustomed to it. It became the norm for me! I would assist him with surfing the school’s website for his classes on occasion. I used to transport him to university and back home on a regular basis.”
“According to what I’ve heard, he always had something to say, especially when his teachers disagreed with him. ‘Hey Rene, you lived through that time period, tell us more about what you recall from that time,’ a lecturer would often say while discussing the past. I believe that seeing him energized and enthused his peers.”
Melanie also mentioned that her grandfather is now critically sick, but she thinks it’s great that he was able to accomplish his goal:
“It seemed like a miracle had happened! With his deteriorating condition, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to see this event. I’m grateful that UTSA was able to make it happen and that his efforts were acknowledged. He worked really hard despite his hearing disability, not having a car and having to rely on public transportation, and working twice as hard to comprehend the ever-changing and modernizing curriculum of economics since he first attended school.”