20-year college career ends with diploma for Aurora 78-year-old

By Rachel Sluss Aurora Advocate Published:

It was a long road -- 20 years to be exact -- for 78-year-old Aurora resident Don Mirolli to earn a college degree, but he finally got it May 10.

Mirolli graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor of arts degree after taking one class a semester over the last 20 years. His graduation date was the same as his fifth grandchild's, who attended the University of Akron.

"It wasn't great because we couldn't go to each other's graduation," he said, joking.

Mirolli retired from MetLife in 1994, where he sold life, home and auto insurance at his office in Solon. He and his wife, Patricia, moved to Aurora with their five children in 1980.

With no declared major and no plan to graduate, Mirolli took classes that interested him. However, about 10 years into his collegiate career, his academic adviser suggested he choose a major because he had accumulated enough credit hours for junior standing.

So he decided to major in social geography and minor in urban planning.

"I enjoy geography, and social geography is more about people than the names of rivers and mountain ranges," he said.

After Don and Patricia celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2010 with three generations of family, Mirolli commented that the next big event would be his graduation.

He joked that there were advantages to being an "old guy student." After enjoying an art history course, he and his wife toured Italy and came across artwork he studied in class. He said he saw some of Caravaggio's work.

However, he said he struggled through some classes such as Italian language. After spending much of his life eating rigatoni and drinking red wine, he thought the course would be easy for him. He had traveled to Italy several times with his wife, but never achieved the fluency he expected.

"I barely got through those classes," he said. "I went to all the classes and listening labs, but my old brain just couldn't keep that vocabulary in it, and conjugating verbs was tough for me, but I got through it."

Mirolli said he may audit one or two classes in the fall at Kent State, noting he will take any class that ends in "Y" except for chemistry.

"I could have audited my classes for free," he said. "If you're old, you can audit classes for free, but you don't get credit. Since I wanted credit and wanted to graduate, I paid."

Mirolli graduated cum laude (with honors) and an exceptional grade-point average.

Email: rsluss@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4162

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