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85-Year-Old Vietnamese Man Obtains Master’s Degree

Applause filled the auditorium of Da Nang’s Duy Tan University on June 10 as Le Phuoc Thiet, midway through his eighties, stood among students his grandchildren’s age before receiving his master’s degree in business administration.

He was showered with applause by an audience of 500 people. Vice Principal Vo Thanh Hai, in awarding the degree, commended Thiet for his will to learn at such an advanced age, Tuoi Tre reports.

In 1975, Thiet and his family left Vietnam for America, where he worked for 20 years trying to make ends meet for his wife and seven children. Eventually, he enrolled at California State University and in 2002, at age 69, earned a graduate degree in economics.

Flash forward 11 years later, the couple moved back to Quang Nam Province, where it was easier to treat his wife’s dementia, while his children remained in the US. She passed away in 2015, not long after Thiet enrolled in his MBA program at Duy Tan University.

“I had to be tough so that she would not be worried in the afterlife,” he told Tien Phong during a conversation in his house, which is 40 kilometers away from the university.

For three years, he took a bus to Da Nang every afternoon and then a xe ôm from the bus stop to the university. His nephew also studied there and, at around 9pm, when classes finished, he gave Thiet a ride home on the back of his motorbike.

“At an age when people would agonize over a numbness across their backs the instant they put themselves on a motorcycle, I feel like I can do this for eternity,” Thiet said.

Thiet had anticipated struggling physically in his later years. Prior to enrolling, he joined a gym close to the university. He was so familiar with dumbbells that coaches there cast away any concerns about his age. Thiet also has a treadmill in his living room which he still uses for 30 minutes a day, and when elevators broke down at the university, he would run up the stairs with ease while younger students hyperventilated.

The conversation with Tien Phong also revealed Thiet’s history of health problems. His family told him to take it easy, but he refused. He would stay in the hospital during the day and go to lectures in the evening.

“There was a time when my arm was broken and most of the tissues were damaged. I told the doctor to give me a cast so that I could go to class. When they attempted to scare me into surgery by saying that my arm would hurt for the rest of my life, I told them I wouldn’t have that much of a life left anyway,” he told Tien Phong.

Despite these health struggles, Thiet was in a buoyant mood. “My educational aspirations”, he said, “have finally been fulfilled.”

[Photo via Thanh Nien]

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