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Oldest grad: 77-year-old earns fourth college degree

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May 20, 2003

Photo of oldest grad Raymond King At a time when most retirees rest and relax, Raymond King began his university education at age 67.

King's parents would not allow him to attend college when he was young. Instead, he served as a cadet for the British Navy from 1946 to 1953 and fought in the Korean War. He then moved to Hong Kong, married and raised five children while working various jobs for the Hong Kong government until 1986. His last job was as a housing manager for the Hong Kong government.

At SFSU's 102nd Commencement ceremony on Saturday King will earn his fourth degree -- a master of arts in Chinese literature. He is the oldest graduate among the 7,378 students in SFSU's Class of 2003.

King, 77, has made up for lost time by attending SFSU full time for 10 years. A language and literature lover, the Shanghai native has earned bachelor's degrees in Chinese literature and Japanese. He also has taken Spanish and Italian courses at SFSU and holds an associate degree in real estate from City College of San Francisco.

"I like reading books and I like to translate them," King said, referring to his longtime interest in Chinese classics such as "The Dream of the Red Chamber." "I have always loved literature and this school has allowed me to expand my knowledge and interest."

In the early 1990s, he turned down opportunities to use his City College degree to work in the Bay Area real estate market, instead choosing to continue his educational pursuits. Unlike most college students, he is not interested in using his degrees to get a job.

"I come here to study for the knowledge -- not for anything else," he said. "My reasons are different than some others. Four degrees at my old age? I'm very proud of myself."

Charles Egan, assistant professor of Chinese literature, said King is "young at heart and is a real character."

"He is committed to classical Chinese literature and really enjoys it," Egan said. "He always was a nice, supportive member of our group of Chinese literature students and faculty, which is pretty small and close-knit."

King, whose daughter Anne King earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from SFSU, enjoys reading and jogging in his spare time. A grandfather of seven who now lives alone in Stockton, he believes that exercising, eating a healthy diet and continuously expanding his mind are the keys to a happy elderly life.

King is now putting a close on his college career. His only plan after Commencement is to continue reading, catching up on the many books in his home.

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Last modified May 20, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs