It's almost graduation time here in Central Georgia. College students will don their caps and gowns to grace the stage for that coveted diploma.
One Fort Valley State University senior who is preparing for this major milestone is just a little more senior than his classmates.
While most retirees want to spend their golden years slowing down, Matthew Brown says he is just getting started.
“You can always take your talents to another level,” he says.
Brown sits at the piano and plays a few notes. “It’s a little out of tune,” he laughs. “I can work with it.”
Back in the 70’s, he was opening for big names like the Manhattans, Millie Jackson, Johnnie Taylor, and Eddie Floyd, who sang the hit song "Knock on Wood."
He even recorded a gospel album at the famed Capricorn Records.
The Air Force veteran turned music instructor says he wanted to take his skills beyond raw talent, so he came to Fort Valley State University four years ago.
The Macon 70-year-old, however, is not a professor.
He’s a student. In fact, he’s an honor student.
“I’m a wildcat for life,” says Brown.
Brown has about five decades of life experience on his classmates, but it did not take him long to fit in.
“Everybody knows ‘Mr. Brown,’” he says. “It’s what I'm called here -- even by the instructors. I'm probably older than most of the instructors too.”
He wanted to get his degree to show his grandchildren how important it is to pursue higher education, and he figured the only way to do that was to lead by example.
“I couldn’t tell them what to do, so I decided to show them what to do.”
So at an age when many are planning their retirement, Brown is getting his diploma.
“It's never too late,” he smiles.
The University System of Georgia covers tuition past the age of 62, as long as the person is a Georgia resident and attends one of the 29 USG institutions.
Some of his favorite classes are photography and graphic design, but his major in music performance should come as no surprise.
“Learning is a full life process,” Brown explains. “You're learning as long as you're alive.”
That’s the reason Brown is not stopping at his undergraduate degree.
He's already enrolled at Georgia College and State University for his Masters.
Brown graduates on May 6.
With his nine children and 20 grandchildren, he’s had to try to reduce his fan section to the ten tickets he was allotted, but his 88-year-old mother will be front and center.
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