72-year-old graduates from college with a degree in cinema studies

Sam Kaplan, 72, of Lawrenceville, Ga., added many items to his resume over the years. In May, he added another when he became a college graduate of Georgia Gwinnett College with a bachelor’s degree in cinema studies, according to a press release.

Because he has a passion for writing and storytelling, Sam thought the advanced training would give him better skills to create screenplays.

“This is my first undergraduate degree,” Sam explained. “I’m the first of my seven siblings to earn a degree.”

After graduating from high school in 1969, Sam did not considered college. He worked in various roles. He ran a cleaning service and then a telemarketing company. He worked in customer service for a wholesale distributor of electronics. He even drove a taxi part time.

At 68 years old, he decided to go back to school, the beginning of a rewarding journey.

“I was riding down Hwy. 316 and heard on the radio that Georgia Gwinnett College was offering a degree that involved script writing,” Sam explained. “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.”

His journey wasn’t easy. He hadn’t been to school in 50 years. He had to relearn how to study. While the father of five had experience in raising children, San said he was nervous about taking classes and fitting in with students who were 50 years younger than him.

So, he made a personal goal to talk to one student a day and ask questions about their studies, their hopes and their dreams. Through those conversations, Sam found commonalities and strengthened bonds.

“When you ask a student about what they want and plan on doing and find out what they want to do with their lives; I think that’s uncommon with a lot of kids – they don’t get that with people,” he said. “I think I have a good relationship with them. I got hugs from a lot of them on the last day of classes.”

Along with his classmates, Sam was also popular among faculty.

“He’d always participate and would offer advice and assistance to his classmates,” said Kate Balsley, associate professor of film, who taught Sam 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.”

Sam navigated his educational journey with flying colors by graduating with a 3.975 grade point average to earn summa cum laude honors, according to Faithpot.

When Sam walked across the stage to receive his diploma, he did so in front of his biggest fan – his 99-year-old mother will be in the audience.

“I am so proud of him. He faced numerous challenges but persevered, and I am delighted, pleased, and incredibly proud,” Virginia explained. “With his new degree, he’s going to excel in whatever he does. Who knows, I might even make an appearance in the movies.”

“She’s very excited,” he explained. “She’s excited, happy and proud.”