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Marten Pereboom and Bill Gibbons '23
Fulton School of Liberal Arts Dean Maarten Pereboom (left) and Bill Gibbons '23 (right)

After 57 Years, Bill Gibbons Earns His Bachelor’s Degree at SU

SALISBURY, MD---It’s never too late to achieve your dreams. Bill Gibbons is living proof of that.

On Thursday, May 25, Gibbons of Mardela Springs, MD, will walk across the stage with Salisbury University’s graduating Class of 2023. It’s been a long time coming; he first started undergraduate courses 57 years ago, while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Japan.

“I’ve always dealt with life as it comes to me,” Gibbons said. “I believe you can do whatever you want to do, and you don’t have to do it according to someone else’s schedule.”

With that philosophy in mind, Gibbons has led his life to his own rhythm. He is finishing his bachelor’s at age 77, and he had his first child at age 65. Throughout his career, he has done everything from being an electronics technician with the U.S. Air Force to getting into real estate. He jokes he has retired four times – and he’s not done yet.

“I’ve learned that changes take place – in your life, in your entire body including your brain – regardless of your age. But aging occurs only in the mind,” Gibbons said. “I’ve seen too many people decide that they are too old to do something. I’ve never wanted to live my life that way.”

Gibbons’ daughter, Sami, is one of the main reasons he decided to return to school. He says raising her was eye-opening, and of everything he’s done in his 77 years of life, having her has been the most significant and joy-filled experience.

He wanted to set an example for his daughter – that she can do anything she wants to do in life, and do it at her own pace. It was his desire to better understand her as she grows up that led him to enroll in the Psychology Program at SU.

Over the years, Gibbons has majored in physics, philosophy, history and art history. (He “just couldn’t decide what he wanted to be when he grew up,” he said.) But at this point in his life, psychology felt like the right fit.

“Psychology was something I was always interested in, even as a child,” Gibbons said. “Studying psychology at SU has helped me understand not only other people and society in general, but also myself, my past and my daughter. It’s kept my mind always going.”

After a long, fulfilling journey, Gibbons will graduate magna cum laude with his psychology degree, with a minor in cognitive science. He hopes the achievement will show his daughter the importance of thinking independently – and that whatever she wants to do in life, it’s never too late.

As for what it feels like to finally earn his degree after 57 years … he’s not sure.

“I don’t think about things like that,” he said. “If you try to plan your life out, I guarantee it won’t go the way you imagine. Whatever life throws your way, you have to rely on yourself and your individuality.”

For more information visit the Commencement website.