86-year-old earns second degree 65 years after first

Man earns his master's degree decades later

ATLANTA -- Friday night, family and friends gathered at Georgia Tech to celebrate the class of 2016.

And while every student is certainly accomplished, there's one student in particular that stands out from the rest.

Meet 86-year-old Leo Benatar who is following up on his Georgia Tech bachelor's degree with a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering.

"I'm old! I know what old is! And I'm old," he said.

Benatar took some time off in between being awarded his undergraduate degree and his advanced degree.

He actually completed all of the credits needed for the master's degree, after starting the program in 1954. But he couldn't find a professor to hear his dissertation.

He dropped out of the program in 1956.

Eight years after he left, the requirements changed, and technically he qualified. But it took decades for him to get the answer.

"Persevere - keep at it if you think it's worthwhile then do it," he said. "And stay with it!" 

When he got the call in December that he would be able to walk across the stage in May, he couldn't believe it.

"I was shocked," he said. "I wasn't prepared for it!"

But now, he says he's ready for the honor of earning his master’s degree.

"I'm really proud and I'm appreciative of Georgia Tech for getting me to this point," he said. 

Reflecting on the two chapters of his studies, Benatar said Georgia Tech students today are so much smarter and more knowledgeable than when he was first an undergraduate in 1947.

He served in the Navy and later as director, president, CEO and board chairman at Engraph - a $500 million manufacturing company.

He's also a former chairman of the Federal Reserve and serves on the board of Aaron's.

Seventeen family members and friends, including his wife, planned to attend and celebrate as Leo donned his cap and gown and received his master’s.

So after he gets that diploma, what's next for the 86 year old graduate?

"My children tell me that I have to prepare a new resume now that I got another degree," Benatar said.

© 2018 WXIA-TV


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