81-Year-Old Uses Lifetime of Learning to Earn GED
When Fred Henry, 81, walks across the stage during the GED graduation ceremony at Temple College on Friday he’ll be the senior of the seniors. Henry left Ralls High School to join the Marines in the 1940s and was sworn in six days after he turned 17. “I really wanted to join up,” he said. “I got in after the war was over, but during the occupation.”
In addition to a number of other jobs, including farming, Henry worked in commercial refrigeration for 42 years, running his own companies. “Then he decided he didn’t want to stay home all day so he went to work for La Quinta for seven years,” said his wife of 18 years, Lila Henry.
In his spare time, Henry takes care of his dog, tends to his garden and on occasion entertains the diners at the French Quarter with his harmonica-playing abilities. It wasn’t until recently, Henry said, that he’s had the time to even think about going back to school.
Henry went to TC to sign up for a computer class and found that since he didn’t have a high school diploma he would have to get a GED. The GED is a high school equivalency diploma. Henry approached the situation like many older adults, believing they are too old to get their GED, said Suzanne Barnes, TEAMS coordinator at Temple College. “He flew through the program,” Barnes said. “He was very diligent and super nice.”
Now when people come in with the belief they are too old, Barnes said she can use Henry as an example that age has little to do with the ability to succeed. “It’s about determination, and Henry was fabulous,” she said. Henry said the only part of the GED that he was concerned about was the English.
“I knew enough to pass the tests … I think most of us know more than we think,” he said. “Henry’s life experiences helped him succeed,” Barnes said. Running his own business made him proficient in many of the skills tested. Henry completed the necessary work for the GED in about three weeks, was able to take his first computer course and has plans to take more.
“Mr. Henry was one of the best — if not the best — success stories of the ABE program this year,” said Kay Hall Snipes, Adult Basic Education instructor. “He was a pleasure to work with and a true asset to our program.”
Patrick Finnegan, Adult Basic Education coordinator, will be the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony. Finnegan said he will be talking about overcoming challenges. There are people who make it from kindergarten through high school with no problems, while others are not so fortunate, Finnegan said. “This is a group of people who may have gotten knocked off track, but are back on track because that’s where they want to be,” he said of the graduates.
It’s also important to recognize the families who have supported these students during this effort, Finnegan said. On Friday, Henry’s family, some from out of town, will attend the GED graduation to see him walk across the stage in his cap and gown. “We’re very proud of him,” Mrs. Henry said.
The ceremony is at 6 p.m. Friday at the Mary Alice Marshall Performing Arts Center on the TC campus. The public is invited.
Ms. Gibbs is a staff writer for the Temple Daily Telegram. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-778-4444 ext. 288.
In the picture Mr. Henry is holding an honorary diploma from Ralls High School, this is where he would have graduated from, 40+ years ago. The article didn’t mention it because it was a surprise on graduation night.