Black Vietnam war veteran Timothy Brown recently graduated from HBCU South Carolina State University (SCSU) at 77 years old, after dropping out of college in the 1960s.
Brown earned a diploma from South Carolina State University, where he took acting and playwriting classes. He attended the institution via the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Vocational Rehab program, which he discovered in 2018 following his stint at a local school for one semester. He enrolled at SCSU, majoring in drama, at 73. However, it proved to be a long journey since he initially dropped out of college to focus on his bus driver job back in the 1960s. At the time, he was residing in Compton, California.
“It’s like a ministry where you’re helping folk with their lives,” Brown said about his driving job. “That’s the most rewarding thing, I think, just to be able to be there for people and help them get back and forth.”
Over 60 years later, he decided to make his dreams of earning a degree a priority. He even said that he didn’t have issues adjusting to college at his age and that school opened his mind to a new passion: acting.
“I think what happened – in fact, I know now what happened – is sometimes you have a talent inside, and you don’t even know you have the talent,” he said. “I had the talent inside, but I didn’t even realize I had acting talent inside of me.”
Brown told reporters he was required to write a play to graduate from SCSU. His play was inspired by his experience of taking a trip from California to Washington D.C. to see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1968.
“That was probably the most rewarding because when he finished his speech, he came into the crowd and was shaking everybody’s hand, and we just happened to be in his path,” he said.
The 77-year-old SCSU graduate has reportedly been working on a proposal to turn his play into an actual production at the university, which he plans to star in alongside his now-former classmates.
Brown also had some words of encouragement for anyone his age who wants to pursue a college degree.
“It could be a lesson for maybe the next person to see how a 77-year-old can, you know, if I can do it, anybody can do it, trust me,” he said.