83-year-old student set to graduate from Southern Miss

Long Beach, MS (WLOX) - After six decades of working and raising his family, 83-year-old Julian Morgan can include one more accomplishment to his biography, a bachelor's degree from The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Morgan, who first started taking courses in 1946 at the University of Alabama, returned to school at Southern Miss in 1999 to complete his undergraduate degree. After taking two classes per semester over 10 years, Morgan has now completed the coursework required to graduate with his bachelor of arts in history degree.

"The thing that impresses me is Mr. Morgan's durability," said Dr. Pat Smith, professor of history. "He sets goals and perseveres. He reads widely and always has interesting comments and insights on the things he reads."

When Morgan attended the University of Alabama in the 1940s, he had only been at school for about a year when he began having health problems. At only 16 years of age, these health problems affected both his higher education goals and his chances of joining the U.S. Army.

After getting married, his attention turned from education to caring for his family.   Three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren later, Morgan is now ready to walk across the platform at commencement to receive his degree. He watched his oldest daughter receive her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, and on Friday, Dec. 12, she will join him in Hattiesburg to see him receive his first college degree.

One difference Morgan observed from the time he attended school in the 1940s is the rising costs. "The amount I pay for books now is more than what I paid for tuition back in the '40s," said Morgan.

As for noticing a difference in classes after several decades, Morgan says he "doesn't see much difference in sitting in any class or a lecture. It's the same old thing. They start the talks and you better listen and take notes."

Living in Long Beach since 1963, Morgan said one reason he likes attending Southern Miss Gulf Coast is convenience. He also enjoys being a Southern Miss student because of his professors. "He is a good living reminder to younger people about the enduring importance of family, work, health, faith and learning - things we can all invest in even in times of economic hardship and be assured that we will reap rewards years later, if we persevere," said Smith, who considers Morgan not only a student, but a friend.

Outside of the classroom, Morgan is a spokesperson for mental health causes and has been a long-time active member of the First Baptist Church of Long Beach. After graduation, he plans on taking a break for one year then possibly returning to the classroom to work on his next degree.