81-year-old graduates with Ph.D in philosophy

81-year-old John Voelpel who graduated on Friday night is the oldest graduate this semester.

TAMPA, Fla. — Thousands will graduate from the University of South Florida this weekend. 81-year-old John Voelpel, who graduated on Friday night, is the oldest among them.

“Getting the Ph.D. feels wonderful. The cap and gown feel a bit warm,” he said.

Voelpel earned a Ph.D. in philosophy. He took his first class at USF in 2002 for no credit. He stuck around nearly 15 years.

“I’ve learned a lot through the philosophy department because philosophy is really where science started,” said Voelpel.

He graduated from college in 1959, from the University of Illinois. He earned a law degree from Wayne State University in 1972.

He spent a career practicing environmental law before attending the University of South Florida. And even though he graduated on Friday, he said he’s already enrolled in another class this summer.

“I’m a different person having come to this school,” said Voelpel.

His advice to graduates includes finding a passion and never letting it die. “Never stop asking questions,” he added.

“We should never feel that we have reached that point in life where we no longer have the responsibility to ask questions and then pursue answers,” said Voelpel.