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Man, 87, earns doctorate degree in Florida

Aug. 14, 2011 at 11:01 AM

MIAMI, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- At 87, a former World War II pilot has become the oldest person to earn a doctorate degree from Florida International University, the school said.

Richard Smith of Boca Raton picked up his doctorate in American history Saturday, a decade after receiving his master's degree from Florida Atlantic University, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

"It's a good way to stay young," Smith said. "I like the idea of research. I will probably find another topic and research it."

Originally from the Boston area, Smith was called to fight in WW II following his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania.

Smith received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal for his service in Europe, part of a unit that dropped bombs on Germany.

"At the time, our interest was 'fly at night, get down, go to the nearest pub, and wait to get called for the next mission,'" Smith said.

After the war Smith returned to school, earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

"I never gave [academics] a thought during my working years," Smith said. "I never imagined I'd go back to school."

Smith's wife urged him to earn his advanced degree after spotting a senior citizens program at FAU.

"I said 'Hey, listen, you have to find something to do because you are choking me here,'" said Zenaida Hernandez Smith, his wife of 34 years.

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