Vietnam veteran celebrates graduation from UT Arlington decades after earning his degree

KTVT Steve Kennedy
KTVT

ARLINGTON, Texas (KTVT) — College graduation is a moment you can spend years dreaming of.

In the case of Steve Kennedy, it’s been nearly a lifetime.

“This is the completion of something I accomplished a long time ago and just didn’t know it,” he said.

Kennedy first appeared on CBS 11 in May of 2020, after the then 75-year-old learned he was receiving a college degree.

“You can call it a dream come true,” he said then.

Back in 1967, Kennedy was nine credit hours short of a diploma when he received a commission to the U.S. Army.

He was sent to Vietnam.

He and his wife, Wilma, had two daughters and picked up a surrogate daughter, too, who married Gulf War veteran Joe Carpenter.

In his 50s, Joe decided to attend Kennedy’s alma mater, UT Arlington.

“I’m also a late bloomer, just 20 years less late than he is,” joked Carpenter.

He asked the university to grant an honorary degree to his surrogate father in law, who’d expressed one regret – not graduating.

The university surprised them both with new that because class credits had changed over the years, Kennedy, in fact, now qualified for a degree.

After waiting more than 50 years, though, to celebrate his achievement, COVID-19 forced him to wait one more.

UTA postponed in person graduation ceremonies for class of 2020 and 2021 graduates until this week. Kennedy walked the stage at Globe Life Field with Carpenter at his side.

“The fact of the matter is – if not for him – I wouldn’t be here at all,” he said.

Both men received the same degree – a bachelor’s in history.

“The diplomas on the wall already, but this part is something I never thought would happen,” said Kennedy.