Phil Koch has made a thing many people consider impossible. This December, at the age of 82, he graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
“It’s never too late,” Koch said in a recent interview. “But that’s easier said than done.”
In 1956 Koch earned an associate degree in horticulture. But pursuing a higher education has always been on his bucket list.
61 year later his dream came true.
I wanted to prove I’m as good as they, if not better. I had to work a little harder
Since Koch’s childhood, parents stressed the importance of education. He graduated from school in New York in 1952 and started studying in Fordham University.
After a year in college, the man had to quit classes due to lack of money and work in ambulance crew.
There he met his wife Anne and they got married.
Phil made a career in Greensboro-based Geigy Chemical Co.. With the help of determination and diligence, he worked his way up to the director of communications.
I was getting more frustrated. There’s got to be more to life than hanging around with all these old guys
Notably, the man successfully supervised people with a doctorate and MBA’s degrees.
“I also wanted to prove that I’m as good as the next guy, if not better. So I had to work a little harder”, he said.
Upon retirement, Phil stayed energetic and active: he worked out, traveled, read and played golf twice a week.
At some point the man realized that the life of an inexorably aging retiree was not okay for him.
“I was getting more frustrated. There’s got to be more to life than hanging around with all these old guys”, Phil explained.
It was in 2012 when he finally realized he wanted to go back to school. His wife, Anne, has also been a student in her late sixties at UNCG. At 70 she got a Bachelor’s degree in history and English.
Anne’s example inspired and motivated Phil to enter university.
Attending classes at UNCG was a pleasure for Phil, he had good grades and made friends with students. Some of his classmates called him “Sir” believing he was a professor.
Unfortunately, after three successful semesters Phil got an ulcer and he had to drop out at the age of 79. At first he didn’t pity he couldn’t graduate. But he missed classes as for him they were even more important than getting a degree.
In the end, tenacity and stamina won. With the wife’s support, he made up his mind and returned to school in 2015.
“I was frustrated about not having achieved the goal that I had set for myself,” Koch said. “I hated being thought of as a quitter.”
Over these years, Anne was there for him. She helped him get his degree, checking his papers, pushing and challenging him.
#UNCGgrad Phil Koch is making history at UNCG. At 82, he’s the oldest Spartan to graduate from the university. About his experience, he said: “I know I’m going to miss this tremendously… . Anybody my age or younger can always go back and finish up. I think it helps keep you young.” Visit our Facebook page or youtube.uncg.edu to watch the entire video.
December 2017 Phil is among UNCG graduates. He also has the right to be called the oldest UNCG’s alumnus.
“Anybody my age and younger can always go back and finish up. It helps keep you young”, Phil concludes.