NEWARK, OH (WCMH) – It’s never too late to finish your education. James Burrell, 80, is receiving his high school diploma, after completing his education at C-TEC.
He was less than a credit short of graduating 62 years ago and decided to go back to school last fall.
“I guess ever since I didn’t graduate, it bothered me,” he said.
Back in 1956, Burrell said he wasn’t doing so well in Spanish class.
“The principal came to me at mid-term and told me to drop Spanish and take typing,” said Burrell. “He said, ‘You’ll still be a quarter credit over.’”
Turns out, it wasn’t good advice. Burrell was told he wouldn’t graduate, despite passing his typing class.
“Instead of being over, I was three-quarters (credit) under,” he said.
Inspired by his great-granddaughter graduating high school this spring, Burrell decided to get back into the classroom at C-TEC. He passed all of his subjects and took a special interest in welding.
“I’ve had a lot of learning and I still like to learn,” he said. “That’s why I took the welding class, I wanted to learn.”
He said not graduating in the 1950’s never hindered him from getting a job. Burrell worked as a licensed electrician and spent 25 years at the Newark Fire Department, working his way up to assistant chief.
Burrell also earned a medal of valor for rescuing a man trapped inside a chemical tank in 1979.
“We saved his life. He was unconscious, wasn’t breathing at the time and had to do CPR on him,” he said. “That was the beginning of my training on hazardous material.”
He said he never stopped learning, training at the National Fire Academy and continuing his education as a firefighter. Burrell also spent many years doing mission work for his church abroad in Haiti and the Philippines, as well as across the U.S.
But, receiving his high school diploma means something special to him.
“It’s something now I can look on and say, ‘I did it. I finished my high school,'” he said.
After asking him what he will do after his graduation ceremony, with a smile Burrell said he will retire.
“I’m going to fully retire,” he said. “Who knows, maybe I’ll want to go to college.”
Burrell will be celebrating his birthday later on this week. He will be 81-years-old when he receives his diploma on June 5th.