University of Baltimore student walks across the stage at age 72
My colleague Don Marcus filed the following story:
Bailey Saint Clair received a standing ovation from many of his fellow University of Baltimore graduates during Sunday's commencement at the Lyric. At 72, Saint Clair was not only the oldest of those receiving their diplomas, but also the most persistent.
It took him 50 years to get there.
Saint Clair, who grew up in Hamden, had earned his business degree in the spring of 1961, shortly after he had signed up to join the Air Force Reserves. According to Saint Clair, he was ordered to report to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Tex. a week before he was set to walk at graduation.
"A lot of my friends had joined the 22nd Medical Service Squad, which was up next to the old University of Baltimore gym," Saint Clair recalled. "It was April 21 and I said to the recruiter, 'Our graduation is June 15. If I sign up, when would you call me for active duty?'
He said it would be sometime in July or August. I'm taking final exams in May and I get a letter from Uncle Sam saying, 'You will report to Lakland Air Force Base on June 8.' I went to the recruiters and I told him I couldn't report (until after June 15 graduation). My uncle, a World War II veteran who was in the Invasion of Normandy with the 29th Infantry, took me by the shirt collar and said, 'Bailey, you're 22 years old, they'll put you in the brig and you'll have trouble getting out.'"
Saint Clair's mother, Mildred Baker, was a nurse who had encouraged him to go to college, went to graduation and picked up her only child's loma. Saint Clair served in the Air Force as a medic in a psychiatric ward and went on with his life, with his college degree but without the memory of graduating.
It gnawed at him he got older, his 26-year career as a drug rep for Bristol-Myers Squibb over, having survived open-heart surgery. An avid runner, Saint Clair also had right hip replacement and major reconstructive knee surgery.
A conversation at a restaurant with former UB classmates spurred Saint Clair's decision to walk at graduation.
"I was at a restaurant last summer, I'm talking to some of the guys that graduated with me and one of them said, 'You know Bailey, is there anything on your list that you'd like to do, like the movie 'The Bucket List'," Bailey said. "I said, there is one thing. At my age I don't want to jump out of an airplane or bungee jump, but I missed graduating off the stage.' I was an only child and my mother sacrificed like crazy. Without the four-year degree, I could never had the career that I did. "
Saint Clair said that the graduation ceremony "was more than I was more than I ever thought it would be" and particularly enjoyed mingling with students a half-century younger than him, one in particular. Saint Clair said that while the graduates were lining up for the processional, he struck up a conversation with Matt Sweet, a 25-year-old who went to college with the help of the G.. Bill after serving in the Air Force. On Monday, he received a note from Sweet.
"He wrote, 'Now that you've got your degree, you should do something with it'," Saint Clair said.