85-Year-Old Earns Long-Delayed Bachelor’s Degree
By Sarah Gilbreath
The average student takes a little more than four years to graduate from college. For Robert Brennan, it took longer. A lot longer.
“I left college in 1959,” said Brennan. “Now I’m picking up where I left off.”
Brennan served in the Korean War, earning A Purple Heart, a Battle Star and several campaign ribbons. When he returned home, he went to college on the GI bill.
But a good job offer lured him away from campus and put him on a path to an impressive career in the media industry.
“I started out doing TV newsreels for movie theaters that would play before the movie started,” he said. “I worked at CBS, and then I became a producer in New York.”
Before long, he became the southern bureau manager for CBS, based in Atlanta during the tumultuous 1960s. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, Brennan covered the story.
“We got the call, and we were there as soon as we could be,” he said. “We were there that night and we were there for the funeral.”
His close ties to the political community in Atlanta led to a position in the Chamber of Commerce in 1976, where he met a visiting Olympic athlete.
“He was on the Olympic handball team that had played in Montreal and Munich. He said to me, ‘You know, Atlanta should host the Games.’ And I thought it was a great idea.
“I did the research and I found out that we could do it, but nobody bought it,” Brennan said. “It just seemed too expensive.”
He didn’t give up. Almost a decade later, he sat on the committee that put in a bid to host the Olympics. When Atlanta won, he was made Press Chief.
After the Games ended in 1996, Brennan retired, spending the next decade volunteering with Atlanta organizations, including the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
“Then I heard about Georgia State University’s GSU-62 program, which allows people over the age of 62 to attend classes for free,” he said. “That was very attractive to me. It gave me the idea that I could go back to school.”
This week, he will graduate with a B.A. in English. He’s proud of his accomplishment, and he’s proud to be a Panther.
“My children have been encouraging me all along,” he said. “This has been such a rewarding experience. Georgia State is a fascinating place.”
As part of his coursework, his professors assigned him the task of writing his memoirs. His professors have told him they will continue to help him finish the project after school is over.
“That’s what I find so remarkable about this school. They’re going to stick with me even after I graduate,” he said.