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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Words of Wisdom From This Year's Oldest Graduate

May 17, 2021

Eighty-one-year-old UWW student Barry Schulman of Longmeadow, Massachusetts is this year’s oldest UMass Amherst graduate. Retired from a career in real estate and a career in manufacturing, Barry has proven that it’s never too late to earn a college degree. He finished his bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences. His wife of 56 years, his daughters, grandsons, and all of us here at UWW celebrate his achievement. We asked Barry what words of wisdom he had for the class of 2021, and this is what he had to say.

“On Feb 1, 2021 I received my diploma from UMass Amherst. Now, as I speak to the Class of 2021, I want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing this learning experience with me. I came to UMass Amherst to finish a  journey that started 63 years ago.

As we celebrate our graduation, I want you to know that it’s not what we’ve learned that matters, although we have learned. What is most important is we’ve discovered we can learn. I’ve applied an old adage to my work ethic, a proverb, a short statement expressing a simple truth: ‘Plan your work and work your plan.’

I’d like to say that we all start out equally, but that’s not true. Some of us are luckier than others. However, I want to quote an early mentor who said to me when I first started working, ‘The harder we work, the luckier we get.’ It’s true. You just have to put in your time and make the effort. That’s what I’m going to be talking to you about today.

All of us for one reason or another chose UMass Amherst for our education to make the most of ourselves. It’s our future. Yours and mine. I’m sure you’ve been lectured by your parents at some point in your life to do the right thing, to go to school, stay in school, get good grades, and become something. To that, I simply say, ‘First get yourself educated and the rest will follow.’ Another quote that I repeated often to my children and grandchildren, ‘First do what you have to do and then you can do what you want to do.’

I’m sure there were times when school may have seemed like a puzzle, a giant maze with no end in sight. For me, it was easy by comparison to my life’s experiences.

Let your education surround you. Let it envelop you. Let it teach you. Let it be part of your life. It’s not hard. Open your mind. Open your heart. Accept it and move on.

Moreover, that being said, I want you to understand that I’ve worked hard all of my life. But however, successful I was, I could have done better if I had completed my education first. I can look back now at my past and I can look forward to my future realizing what could have been. I now have a measuring stick to judge by. I as your classmate am your equal.

Today I share with you the wisdom that comes with age. We have made the most of our college experience and will have the knowledge we gained from being students at UMass Amherst for the rest of our lives.

Congratulations Class of 2021!"