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96-year-old participates in CASC commencement

Friday, May 17, 2024 - In an inspiring testament to lifelong learning and perseverance, 96-year-old Ronald Bartlett recently celebrated his graduation from Carl Albert State College. Mr. Bartlett's journey to this milestone is a remarkable story of determination and the pursuit of better opportunities, starting with his desire to secure a better future through education. Mr. Bartlett was able to participate in CASC’s Graduation ceremony held on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

Mr. Bartlett was born in Coal Hill, AR, and graduated from Coal Hill High School. His higher education academic journey began in 1956 after his military service. Mr. Bartlett attended CASC (then Poteau Junior College) until 1959 but did not have enough credits to complete an associate degree. With CASC's new Associate of Applied Science in Applied Technology (ATECH.AAS) degree program, CASC could incorporate his 1959 workforce course credits with new awards based on his military education and work-related experiences to award him his degree on May 17, 2024.

From research conducted by CASC staff, it is believed that Bartlett is probably the 6th oldest person in the world (not including Shigemi Hirata from Japan, who was 96 and 200 days) and 4th oldest in the U.S. to earn a degree ( Consequently, it is believed that he is the oldest graduate from CASC as well as all of Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Mr. Bartlett has an amazing story, and when asked about his journey, here’s what he had to say:

What inspired you to pursue a college degree?

"It started off as going to school on a GI bill. I wanted to earn more money," shared Mr. Bartlett, reflecting on the origins of his academic journey.

How does it feel to achieve this milestone after so many years?

"It's just I can’t describe it. It’s just out of this world, just like a good dream come true," he said, his joy and amazement evident as he discussed the emotional impact of his achievement.

Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from your time as a student?

"I was able to meet a lot of people," Mr. Bartlett recounted, highlighting the social connections and relationships that enriched his college experience.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had known or done differently during your academic journey?

"No," he responded succinctly.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time as a student?

"To graduate from a university," he said, underscoring the fulfillment of a long-held dream.

What message would you like to share with younger generations about the importance of lifelong learning?

"Work hard in every day of life or job you get. Do the best you can for your employer and if you work hard enough you will advance. Do your job to the best of your knowledge," Mr. Bartlett advised.

How do you plan to celebrate this momentous occasion?

"I will be celebrating with my family and closest friends (who are still alive)," he shared, looking forward to marking this achievement with those dearest to him.

Lastly, what does walking across the stage at your college graduation mean to you personally?

"It meant that it was a dream come true, something I never imagined possible," he said, capturing the profound personal significance of this moment.

“Mr. Bartlett started his journey at Carl Albert State College decades ago, focusing on giving himself more professional opportunities to take better care of his family and to be a better member of his community,” said CASC President Dr. Jay Falkner. “He was very successful and has been supported by his family. After telling his family about his academic journey, they thankfully notified our staff in Enrollment Management, and with the help of that wonderful team along with the team in Academic Affairs, it was determined that Mr. Bartlett could indeed graduate. His participation made this year’s commencement ceremony truly inspiring, and we were honored to be part of his story.”

Mr. Bartlett's story is a powerful reminder that it is never too late to pursue one's dreams and that education can be a lifelong endeavor.

KXMX Staff Writer

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