WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — At 78 years of age, Billy Wade Parsons is among the oldest, if not the oldest, to earn his degree from Midwestern State University.

Parsons walked the stage at Kay Yeager Coliseum on May 1 to receive his Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree.

After growing through life’s peaks and valleys, Parsons said one of his biggest regrets was not earning his degree.

In 2017, Parsons enrolled in Texas State Technical College and earned his associate degree in chemical dependency counseling. He thought he would be able to apply those hours toward earning his bachelor’s degree and fulfill his longtime dream.

However, Parsons struggled to find a school that would accept his hours from TSTC and others would not honor his veteran’s benefits.

MSU Texas found answers to both his issues through the BAAS program.

Parsons completed five semesters through online classes and made the Dean’s List in Spring 2019.

“I enjoyed him sharing his experiences, his background, and his wisdom,” Delores Jackson, Director of the BAAS program said. “He is the epitome of life-long learning and a great example of how the diversity of perspectives aids in learning.”

Parson cried as he walked the stage. Not because of his accomplishment but two weeks before graduation he lay to rest his 98-year-old mother.

Parsons said his mother inspired him to consider a second career at this stage in his life.

Parsons lives in Clyde, Texas, and works for a customer response center that takes calls for more than 400 power companies.

When he earned his associate degree, 23 of the 30 people he works with went to the graduation ceremony. Because of COVID restrictions, they could not come to his MSU Texas graduation but they did throw him a party.

His ex-wife and her husband, two granddaughters, and one granddaughter’s fiancé did get to attend.

Even though his mother wasn’t physically present, Parsons know her spirit was with him saying, “she had a front-row seat.”

Parsons also spent three years in the U.S. Army, then eight years in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic. For his next career, veterans are the people he wants to help by being a veterans’ peer counselor.

The next step for Parsons is to complete internship hours, moving him one step closer to his ultimate goal.