DAHLONEGA, Ga. - An 88-year-old World War II veteran has finally completed a lifelong dream.
On Saturday, Allen Fleming graduated from college.
Fleming was a fighter pilot and bomber in the Navy when he was younger. He then became a successful advertising executive in Florida and a father to five children. However, through all his successes there was something Fleming still dreamed of doing; getting a college degree.
“It was a personal journey that began long ago, after the war,” said Fleming. “It was always on my heart to finish my degree, but my kids took priority and life just always seemed to get in the way.”
In the 40s, Fleming attended four different universities while in the service, but never completed his degree. His kids said they never knew he didn’t have a degree until four years ago when he decided to go back to school.
“I always knew it was something I needed to do,” said Fleming. “I wanted to show everyone that it’s always possible to finish your dream.”
Fleming enrolled at the University of North Georgia, which was no easy feat. Before enrolling, he had to gather all his old transcripts from the 40s. After tracking them all down across several states, he was accepted and began working toward his dream.
Fleming suffered a stroke and several health issues while attending college, but always pushed through with the help of his wife, Janet. Fleming says Janet drove him to school and carried his books to his classroom when he couldn’t do it on his own.
He says school and the assignments were a lot different than in the 40s, but there was always someone willing to help him out, especially when it came to computers and technology.
“I’ve always been a pen and paper man,” said Fleming.
He didn’t give that up, writing every assignment on paper before transferring it to the computer with the help of his classmates.
He says he didn’t enjoy the math or diagramming sentences and he constantly cursed at his computer, but he says he was always determined to finish what he started.
Four years later, on Saturday, Fleming’s wife, five children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren watched as he walked across the stage and received his diploma for a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in journalism. His family says he received two standing ovations.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was excited and just so thankful to everyone who helped me along the way,” said Fleming.
He says the hardest part of the whole journey may have been the stairs at the end.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it up and down the stairs to that stage,” he said.
With the help of others, Fleming not only made it onto the stage, but completed a lifelong goal.
“We are so incredibly proud of him,” said his daughter Juli Angert. “I am a high school English teacher working on my doctorate and my father has inspired me my entire life. He is the reason I teach.”
Fleming said that’s one of the main reasons he undertook this journey: to inspire others.
“I hope that I can inspire future generations to complete higher education,” he said.
Fleming says he was not only proud of himself, but every single person who graduated alongside him.
“This is something you can achieve. It’s never impossible,” he said.
So what’s next? Fleming says maybe a Master’s Degree and completing some of his other goals, like skydiving on his 90th birthday in two years.