News

Grandfather graduates from Portland State University with granddaughter
Author: Cristina Rojas, Coll
Posted: June 11, 2018

Fifty-four years after Jack Whitmore was first accepted to Portland State University, the 74-year-old is finally getting his degree.

Whitmore will graduate from PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor's in science on Sunday. And he'll get to share the big day with his eldest granddaughter, Bailey Pederson, who's also graduating from PSU with a master's in communication.

"It started off as a joke of, 'Wouldn't it be funny if we graduated together?'" said Pederson, 22. "But we found him an advisor, got everything done and here we are."

Pederson reached out to the CLAS Advising Center. Advisor Ari Douangpanya, Robert Mercer, a recently retired assistant dean in charge of advising, and Pam Wagner from the Office of the Registrar worked with them to see what was left of Whitmore's degree requirements.

Old copies of his handwritten transcripts were found in the vaults of PSU’s Neuberger Hall — and it turns out he was only two credit hours short.

Though Whitmore had been taking chemistry classes as a part-time student at PSU, he says he's thankful that he wasn't required to take an upper-level science class to finish his degree.

"About the only thing I could do in chemistry anymore is make the baking soda and vinegar volcano," he joked.

Douangpanya instead assigned him a paper on how education has played a role in his life.

“His paper went above and beyond what I was looking for," she says.

Whitmore was able to work on his paper from Palm Desert, Calif., where he spends his winters. He started with an outline and would go back to fill in the gaps — in between his rounds of golf and other social activities. Pederson, who had majored in English as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, was his second set of eyes, helping him edit and polish the paper.

"It was fun for me too because I got to read all about his life," she said, adding that it also gave her a break from graduate school.

Whitmore's college journey began in 1962 when he attended Mayville State University in North Dakota for a term. He returned home and graduated with a two-year certificate from Portland Electronics College, a trade school in downtown Portland. He later took classes at both PSU and Mount Hood Community College before life became busy.

His career has spanned from jobs in television and radio repair to avionics and real estate. He sold his real estate firm to John L. Scott Real Estate in 1997, continuing to work for them through 2006. Today, he still manages investment properties and Big Eddy Marina, a floating home community on the Columbia River.

His advice for graduates, including his own grandchildren, is to find something they love to do.

"Hopefully your education would meld in with that and you get a benefit from both," he said. "So find something you love to do and all of a sudden, you realize you're 74 years old."