75-year-old Tech student set to graduate

A 75-year-old student is set to graduate in May.To Ronald Tiller of Vonore, Tenn., a degree is more than a ticket to good job; it is a vital piece that is missing from his life. He does not need a degree in order to get a well paying job, but here he is taking classes in order to walk across the stage in May.

Not having a degree “has always been a burden,” Tiller said.

Tiller started his college experience at Tech over fifty years ago in 1956 majoring in animal husbandry. He continued his education here through 1960, but life happened and he ended up leaving without a degree.

Tiller and his wife have three children. His oldest son lives in Vonore with his wife and two kids. Tiller’s daughter lives in Denver with her husband. His youngest son lives in Houston.

Tiller’s kids grew up not knowing that their father had not finished college. He dreaded the day when they might ask him about it. Luckily for him, that day never came.

Tiller heard about the online program at Tech through the Finish-Your-Degree programs article in the Visions alumni magazine that is distributed each fall. He got in contact with Jane Sipes, RODP/Distance Learning Coordinator in partnership with the school of Interdisciplinary Studies. She, along with Tammy Boles, Coordinator of Programs in the school of Interdisciplinary Studies, looked into his records and got him set up to start back to Tech in the fall of 2009.

“Tennessee Tech is very important to him,” Boles said.

It was just something he had to do for himself.

“It was something that I should have done fifty years ago,” Tiller said. “Everybody that starts to college should have a degree, in my opinion.”

Tiller said he has “thoroughly enjoyed going back to the classroom and being involved with this experience.”

Tiller is “very anxious” about his graduation in May.

He has even rented the ballroom at the airport Hilton in Maryville to celebrate his graduation.

“I am excited about it. Ms. Sipes is excited about it. Everyone seems to be excited about it,” Tiller said. “I even want you to be excited about it.