Retired electrician earns Penn State degree at age 72

University Park, Pa. — When retired electrician Regis Kingera walks across the stage to pick up his diploma, he will have achieved a lifetime goal of earning a college degree. And he did it entirely through Penn State’s Go-60 program, which enables adults age 60 and older who meet eligibility requirements to enroll in courses for free.

Kingera, 72, will receive a bachelor of science degree in organizational leadership during the College of the Liberal Arts commencement ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Go-60 program is available through Penn State Continuing Education and is open to Pennsylvania residents, Penn State alumni and former University employees over age 60 who are retired or working less than half-time. Continuing Education credit courses are free, if space is available.

When Kingera retired in 1996, he moved to State College to be near his oldest daughter. One day, Kingera recalls looking out the window. “I saw young people walking, carrying books, and I thought I would take some classes, too.” He began taking Penn State writing courses in 1997 and enrolled in two or three courses a semester. “I kept plugging along.”

Kingera added, “I have been in school since kindergarten. I’m always learning.” He grew up in Johnstown and joined the Navy after high school. Following his discharge from the Navy, he worked as an electrician. He once applied for a quality control engineering job with a federal government project in Saudi Arabia, but wasn’t hired, because he didn’t have a college degree. That experience made him more determined than ever to earn a degree.

At Penn State, Kingera said the best thing about being a college student is being among young people. “I enjoyed listening to their ideas. It kept me young.” He knows the latest college slang, but still can’t text message. However, his experiences served him well in his classes. One time, a student asked the professor a question about Watergate, and the professor said, “Let’s ask Regis; he was probably there.”

The retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) always tries to buy American-made products. That includes his cap and gown. When he couldn’t find an American-made product locally, he searched the Internet, finding an Indiana company that makes these items. He will wear what he says is “a better-made cap and gown” during the commencement ceremony.

Kingera expressed his appreciation for Penn State’s Go-60 program and the IBEW pension program for helping to make his dream of a college degree possible. With his IBEW pension, he was able to buy his textbooks, he said.

Kingera’s college degree is just the beginning of his budding academic career. “I’m studying for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), just in case,” he jokes, but admits, “I never want to stop learning.”

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Last Updated May 14, 2009