It was a long, circuitous journey, but over the weekend, 83-year old Raymond Czapkowski finally earned the degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that he started nearly six decades ago.
In 1960, Czapkowski enrolled at RIT at the age of 24, ready to pursue a degree in printing. However, he got behind on his studies after a bout of appendicitis. He then had to get a job to support his family, putting his education on the backburner.
“It didn’t gnaw at me and I always intended to come back to take the few courses to complete the degree,” explains Czapkowski. “Next thing I know, 30, 40 years go by.”
Fortunately for Czapkowski, he did well for himself even without a college degree. He got a job at a printing shop, eventually, buying the business. He even returned to RIT as a teacher, spending 10 years in the School of Communications.
“No one ever asked me about my education,” Czapkowski said with a chuckle. “They just assumed because I said I attended RIT they must have assumed I had a degree.”
But a few years ago while he was volunteering at the RIT library, the assistant curator discovered that Czapkowski had never completed his degree. At that point, he finally decided it was time to go back to school and finish what he started all those years ago.
After doing a lot of good work in his life without a degree, Czapkowski has finally taken care of some unfinished business, completing his Associate’s Degree.
“To me, this degree is a matter of completeness,” says Czapkowski. “In my volunteer work, all kinds of people come through the library and my life has been so enriched by the people I have met. To me, I’ve found that to be of great value.”
Now that he has his degree, Czapkowski says he will continue to volunteer at the RIT library, except now he’ll have a little more freedom to sleep late. He’s also proud to carry with him a certain distinction.
“I’m more than an alum,” he says. “I’m a graduate.”