Way Bandy, an 81-year-old grandfather of eight, has accomplished a lifelong goal by earning a bachelor's degree, fulfilling a promise he made to his late mother. On December 15, surrounded by his wife Nancy and youngest son Kyle, Bandy proudly walked across the stage at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USF) to receive his diploma in general studies.
In an interview with "Good Morning America," Bandy expressed his hope that his story would inspire others. He said, "I truly hope my little story will resonate with someone and they'll say, 'Shoot. If that old guy could do it, I can beat that.' If that works, I'll be very, very happy about it."
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Bandy attended Samford University, the University of Alabama, and spent time at USF before deciding to pause his education to start a family. However, he never forgot the promise he made to his mother, Dimples Way Bandy, who emphasized the importance of keeping one's word of honor. She urged him to go back and earn his degree one day.
This year, determined to fulfill his mother's wish, Bandy collected his college transcripts and applied to USF. With only one class left to complete, he returned to USF and enrolled in a biology course focused on studying wetland environments.
Although the course presented challenges, Bandy remained steadfast. He considered dropping it at one point but persevered, studying diligently for the final exam and dedicating countless hours to his term paper. Bandy's instructor, Dr. P, awarded him a B grade in the course and even graded his paper in his presence.
Recalling the triumphant moment, Bandy said, "All of a sudden she was giving me a hug, we're doing a high five and a fist bump. I get in the hallway, I threw up my arms like I did a touchdown and I screamed, 'Yes! I did it!'"
While Bandy expressed relief at completing his degree, his ultimate goal is to inspire others to pursue their academic dreams. He advises people to take their time, stay focused on their goals, and promise themselves they will finish what they started. Bandy firmly believes that anyone can achieve their educational aspirations, saying, "If I can do it, anybody can—and I promise that from the bottom of my heart."
Way Bandy's incredible determination and fulfillment of a lifelong promise serve as a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of honoring one's commitments. His story is a reminder that it is never too late to pursue education and chase your dreams.
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