Giuseppe Paterno became the oldest graduate in Italy after he passed his final exams at the age of 96.
He is a World War II veteran and now he has completed his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from the University of Palermo, becoming the oldest person in Italy to do so.
“I am a normal person, like many others,” Paterno said in an interview. “In terms of age I have surpassed all the others but I didn’t do it for this.” In 2017, Paterno decided to enroll at the university and got his degree. He completed his work with a typewriter from the ’80s, using print editions of books instead of the Internet to complete his research.
“I said, ‘That’s it, now or never,’ and so in 2017, I decided to enroll,” Paterno 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’.”
He was born to a poor family in Sicily before the Great Depression, and joined the navy and served in World War II. He waited till the war was over to graduate from high school, at age 31. He went on to work in the railways, got married, and raised a family.
He has gone through a lot in his life, first surviving childhood poverty, war, and now the pandemic. Today he has completed his graduation ceremony before family and teachers, and students more than 70 years his junior.
“You are an example for younger students,” his sociology professor, Francesca Rizzuto, told him after he passed his final oral examination in June.