Almost 50 years after putting off college, retiree to get Parkland degree

Almost 50 years after putting off college, retiree to get Parkland degree

It was late Christmas night in 2015, after all of the holiday festivities had ended, when Chad Taylor asked his father, Bill, a deep question.

"'Dad, how do you assess your life?'" Bill remembers his son asking.

"Son, what a philosophical question," Bill said he responded. "But let me tell you. I've been married to your beautiful mother 49 years. We've been blessed with two wonderful kids, you're both professionals, and I had a fantastic sales career. I made good money, and it made me happy. But I have one regret."

"What do you regret?" asked Chad, a math professor at Harper College in Palatine.

"Well, I regret that I never went to college," Bill said.

Chad got up from the recliner and went over to the computer and enrolled his 68-year-old father in classes at Parkland College.

Forty-nine years ago, Taylor had every intention of attending college. After finishing his time in the military, the Boston native decided to settle with his wife in Mahomet. He enrolled at Parkland and went looking for a part-time job.

His first opportunity came selling cars at Worden-Martin in Savoy, and he enjoyed it so much, he decided to skip college to do it full time. He spent the next 41 years working in sales, hawking furniture, TVs, appliances and lawnmowers and finally selling ads for WDWS for 11 years before retiring in 2011.

Taylor has enjoyed retirement. As a joke with friends from WDWS, he decided to grow out his hair and hasn't cut it since. He golfed every day. He and his wife took their camper to Massachusetts every summer.

But he still regretted not attending college.

So, for the last three years, Taylor has taken online courses. And he hasn't done it passively.

"In online classes, you've got to be very disciplined to be able to make sure you're allocating all of your time to complete all of your studies," he said. "And one thing I prided myself on — a lot of young people, they want to try to figure out what the shortest route is to get from point A to point B, and let's cut corners.

"Whatever the professor had on the syllabus, I did the whole thing and then some. I didn't skip a beat. If they told us to read this book, I read that book. So every day, I learned something."

Instead of playing golf every day, he holed himself up in his office studying. During those trips back to Massachusetts, when he was taking summer classes, he never let his studies drop.

As a result, he got all As — that is, except for the B he got in math.

"My son wouldn't help me," Taylor said with a laugh. "He said, 'Dad, I did it on my own when I learned. You're going to be on your own.' But believe me, being 52 years out of high school, I was very happy with a B in math. Math was never my forte."

Three-and-a-half years after his son signed him up for classes, 71-year-old Taylor will give a short speech on the Krannert Center Great Hall stage Thursday night and lead his Parkland classmates as they turn their tassels.

To celebrate the next day, he'll cut his hair for the first time in eight years.

"When I started college, my wife said, 'You've got to get your hair cut,'" Taylor said. "And I said, 'I'll tell you what, honey. When I graduate Parkland, I'll get it cut for you.'

"I won't miss it. It's been a fun joke for these years, but it's time to grow up."

Now that he has his associate degree, Taylor plans to become a high school substitute teacher.

And just because he'll be all grown up at the age of 71 doesn't mean Taylor will stop learning. He plans to take Spanish classes with his wife and hopes to take American Sign Language classes after that.

"You're never too old to learn," Taylor said. "Don't stop learning. Pick up a book, and learn something new every day."

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