78-year-old graduates from MSU Texas

Billy Wade Parsons
Billy Wade Parsons(Sallisa Wyatt)
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - 78-year-old Billy Wade Parsons walked the stage at Kay Yeager Coliseum on May 1 to receive his Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree from Midwestern State University.

Parsons was inspired by his 98-year-old mother, who he buried two weeks before graduation, to consider a second career at this stage in his life.

“She took on raising her grandchildren when she was in her 70s,” Parsons said.

He is 78 years old and is among the oldest to earn his degree from MSU Texas, if not the oldest.

Parsons skipped his senior year and did not walk the stage when he graduated from Big Lake High School in 1961. He ended up receiving his diploma by mail. Parsons then started nursing school in 1980 at Angelo State University, but left after he and his wife had a child born with a heart defect. The child later died.

Parsons reflected on his life after his 30-year marriage ended in divorce. One of his regrets was not earning his degree, so he enrolled in Texas State Technical College and walked the stage in 2017 to receive an associate degree in chemical dependency counseling. Parsons knew he could earn his bachelor’s degree after making it that far.

When he decided to enroll in a four-year university for his bachelor’s, Parsons had trouble finding a school that would accept his hours from TSTC. Other schools would not honor his veteran’s benefits.

He found the answer to his problems through the BAAS program at MSU Texas; he completed five semesters through online classes and even made the Dean’s List in Spring 2019.

“I enjoyed him sharing his experiences, his background, and his wisdom,” Delores Jackson, Director of the BAAS program, said. “He is the epitome of life-long learning and a great example of how the diversity of perspectives aids in learning.”

Parsons spent three years in the U.S. Army, then eight years in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic; he knows first-hand the issues that veterans face. Those are the people he wants to help through his next career path. He now needs to complete internship hours.

“When I grow up,” Parsons said with a laugh, “I plan on being a veterans’ peer counselor.”

Parsons’ ex-wife and her husband, two granddaughters, and one granddaughter’s fiancé attended his graduation at MSU Texas.

Even though his mother wasn’t physically present, Parsons knows her spirit was with him.

“She had a front-row seat,” Parsons said.

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