97-year-old WWII vet earns college degree in Illinois

An Illinois man who left college to serve in World War II returned to finish his education nearly 80 years later.

Bill Gossett, 97, attended Lincoln College for a short time before transferring to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, but he ended up joining the U.S. Army Air Corps before finishing a degree.

Gossett returned from the war and took over the family business, Gossett’s Cleaners, instead of returning to school.

“There was always a void there but I was busy learning to run a business. Time went by and I finally decided to finish my degree. It was a goal of self-fulfillment,” Gossett said in a news release.

Gossett approached Lincoln College officials about returning to the school to finish his associate’s degree.

“In 2019, Mr. Gossett came to me and said he wanted to finish his associate’s degree at Lincoln College,” Lincoln College President David Gerlach said.

“After meeting with the Registrar’s Office, we determined that Gossett could re-enroll as a reverse transfer student with Prior Learning Assessment credits. We were inspired by his desire to obtain a degree 80 years after his education began,” he said.

Gossett completed his Associate of Arts degree in 2020, but had to wait for the 2021 graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gerlach surprised Gossett at the ceremony with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.