Robert Mathew, a 73-year-old Ypsilanti resident, earned the distinction of being the oldest member of the Class of 2019. (Photo by Sara Faraj)


Robert Mathews started taking music classes with iconic WCC instructor Dr. Morris J. Lawrence in the early 1970s. Nearly 50 years later, he’s still taking music classes … now in the Morris Lawrence Building.

Upon completion of an associate degree in Occupational Studies earlier this year, the 73-year-old Ypsilanti resident earned the distinction of being the oldest graduate in the college’s 2019 class.

Mathews, a bass-playing blues musician who records himself on a reel-to-reel tape deck in his basement, is learning to operate the latest in digital equipment in an Audio Recording Technology class. “My old stuff is breaking down and I can’t fix it fast enough,” he says.

He did, however, learn to fix plenty of things during his time at WCC. Back in May 2006, Mathews earned a certificate in Power Equipment Technology.

The Vietnam-era veteran worked as a machinist, truck driver and housing inspector, but has been self-employed since the 1980s, doing roofing and other odd jobs. Whenever he had extra time, or desired an additional skill, he’d return to WCC.

“I just wanted to learn what I wanted to learn, and then one day I woke up and I had a certificate,” Mathews says. “At some point over the last few years, an advisor showed me that I only needed a few general education classes to earn my associate degree, so I figured I might as well wrap that up, too.

“Now, I guess, everything after this will just be back to doing what I want to do.”