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96-year-old Italian man, a WWII veteran, becomes country's oldest graduate


An Italian man became the nation’s oldest graduate after passing his final exams at the age of 96, Reuters reported.

World War II veteran Giuseppe Paterno completed his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from the University of Palermo.

Giuseppe Paterno, 96, Italy's oldest student, has breakfast in his kitchen, two days before he graduates from The University of Palermo with an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, at his home in Palermo, Italy, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH "ITALY'S OLDEST STUDENT" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RC294I9K9JZI

Giuseppe Paterno, 96, Italy’s oldest student, has breakfast in his kitchen, two days before he graduates from The University of Palermo with an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, at his home in Palermo, Italy, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH “ITALY’S OLDEST STUDENT” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES. – RC294I9K9JZI

“I am a normal person, like many others,” Paterno said in an interview with Reuters. “In terms of age I have surpassed all the others but I didn’t do it for this.”

In 2017, Paterno decided to enroll and finally get his degree. He completed his work with a typewriter from the ’80s, using print editions of books instead of the Internet to complete his research.

The graduation certificate of Giuseppe Paterno's, 96, Italy's oldest student, who completed his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, is pictured at the University of Palermo, in Palermo, Italy, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH "ITALY'S OLDEST STUDENT" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RC294I9DDBSK

The graduation certificate of Giuseppe Paterno’s, 96, Italy’s oldest student, who completed his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, is pictured at the University of Palermo, in Palermo, Italy, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH “ITALY’S OLDEST STUDENT” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES. – RC294I9DDBSK

“I said, ‘That’s it, now or never,’ and so in 2017, I decided to enroll,” Paterno said. “I understood that it was a little late to get a three-year degree but I said to myself ‘Let’s see if I can do it’.”

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Born to a poor family in Sicily before the Great Depression, Paterno joined the navy and served in World War II.

Giuseppe Paterno, 96, Italy's oldest student, attends his graduation, which had social distancing measures in place, after completing his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy at the University of Palermo, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Palermo, Italy, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH "ITALY'S OLDEST STUDENT" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RC294I9JDGYE

Giuseppe Paterno, 96, Italy’s oldest student, attends his graduation, which had social distancing measures in place, after completing his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy at the University of Palermo, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Palermo, Italy, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH “ITALY’S OLDEST STUDENT” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES. – RC294I9JDGYE

He had to wait until after the war to graduate from high school, completing his education at the age of 31. He went on to work in the railways as he married and raised a family.

Giuseppe Paterno, 96, Italy's oldest student, is awarded his graduation certificate after completing his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, during his graduation at the University of Palermo, in Palermo, Italy, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH "ITALY'S OLDEST STUDENT" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RC294I9JPAHJ

Giuseppe Paterno, 96, Italy’s oldest student, is awarded his graduation certificate after completing his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, during his graduation at the University of Palermo, in Palermo, Italy, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane SEARCH “ITALY’S OLDEST STUDENT” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES. – RC294I9JPAHJ

After surviving childhood poverty, war and – now – pandemic, he completed his graduation ceremony before family and teachers, as well as students more than 70 years his junior, Reuters reported.

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“You are an example for younger students,” his sociology professor, Francesca Rizzuto, told him after he passed his final oral examination in June.

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