Sam Kaplan of Lawrenceville, Georgia has added many items to his resume over the years. But on May 11th, in his 72nd year of life, he added a particularly late line item—a college degree.
Alongside classmates 50 years his junior, Kaplan crossed the stage in cap and gown to receive an undergraduate degree in Cinema and Media Arts from George Gwinnett College. His 99-year-old mother was there to see it all and cheered as well as she could.
Kaplan, who graduated from high school in 1969, had not considered college. He went right into the workforce in various roles.
According to the GGC news release, he ran a cleaning service and then a telemarketing company. He worked in customer service for a wholesale distributor of electronics and even drove a taxi part-time.
“I’m the first of my seven siblings to earn a degree,” said Kaplan. “I was riding down 316 and heard on the radio that Georgia Gwinnett College was offering a degree that involved script writing.”
“My car seemed to have developed automatic steering and I pulled off on Collins Hill Road. Five minutes later, I was registering for the fall semester.”
It wasn’t as easy as one might think, and he at first found it difficult to remember how to study, how to make friends, and all the other skills being a student required. So he committed himself to talking to one student a day; asking about their methods, hopes, and approaches to the class.
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He no doubt had help and advice from his five children, but he also said that his classmates really opened up during those chats, and that helped him excel.
“He’d always participate and would offer advice and assistance to his classmates,” said Kate Balsley, associate professor of film, who taught Kaplan in a number of classes. “Sam was always willing to share photos and stories about his interesting life and his family. We’re so proud to see him graduate, but we will miss him.”
With his degree, we’ll expect to no doubt see his name in the credit rolls of an independent film in the not-too-distant future.
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