Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- June 6, 2005
CSUB Graduation-75-Year-Old Earns BA
On Saturday morning (June 11), King, whose 75th birthday is June 18, will walk
into the California State University, Bakersfield Amphitheater along with nearly
800 fellow graduates of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences to receive
his diploma. It's the culmination of something he's always wanted to do but because
of family and job responsibilities never had the chance - until now.
"This is for me," he said. "People ask me what I'm going to do with this degree,
and I tell them, 'Nothing. This is for me.' People don't understand it."
What makes the story even more intriguing is that he took an anthropology course
as part of his minor from his daughter, Dixie King. Dixie, who graduated from CSUB
in 1978 with a double major in history and anthropology, earned her doctorate in
anthropology from UCLA. She founded her own company, Transforming Local Communities,
Inc. "We do research and program evaluation for health related programs, and work
with schools and public agencies, providing training and consulting services,"
The first person in her immediate family to attend college, Dixie occasionally
teaches classes for CSUB's anthropology department.
She'll soon be joined by her father as a college graduate. "Dad is the second
generation to graduate from college, but we did it in the opposite direction,"
She also noted that Frank didn't study for the final exam in her class. "But I
got a B," he offered defensively.
That was probably due to the generosity of a colleague whom Dixie asked to grade
his papers and final, she said. "I'd have been tougher," she added with a grin.
Frank, however, thinks statistics, a general education requirement, is tougher.
He's worried about his grade in that class. "I went up to the professor and asked
her, 'Don't I come under the no-child-left-behind act?' I thought she would die
Education is no laughing matter, though, to Frank. It's something he's always
craved but never had the opportunity to pursue. He was born in Paso Robles in 1930,
but his family moved a lot when he was growing up. "We lived all over the western
United States," Frank said. "My parents loved to move. Sometimes they'd move for
no reason at all other than they liked the name of a town."
"I think Dad's achievements are all the more astonishing because they moved
constantly," Dixie said. "He went to 38 schools before he graduated from high
After finishing high school in Colorado, Frank worked some jobs in Kansas, then
served with the Marine Corps in Korea, before returning to California in 1953 and
a job with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in Bakersfield. He was a
conductor and brakeman for the railroad before retiring in 1994.
School was always in the back of his mind, and "I would have probably gone to school
before I did, but I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. "So
that eliminated any possibility of schooling or anything else, really."
But once he retired it didn't take long for the educational itch to need a scratch.
"I always wanted to go to school - I liked school as a kid - but the money was not
there," he said. But about eight or nine months after I retired I talked to Dixie
about it. I told her, 'I'm thinking about going back to school.'"
Dixie was thrilled. She took him to Bakersfield College, where he met with college
officials, and made arrangements to enroll. And in the fall 1995, then-65-year-old
Frank King began his college career.
He remembers his first day vividly. "When I opened that door the first time I didn't
know what to expect," he said. "It was one of the hardest things I've done in a
long time. To be truthful about it, it was kind of scary."
Said Dixie: "You were scared to death."
He's had a few starts and stops along the way - he sat out a year in 1999 because
of illness - but he earned his associate's degree from BC, and enrolled at CSUB
in fall 2000. He took a class or two a quarter, occasionally skipping a quarter to
indulge in his favorite pastime - travel. And his travels influenced his choice
of a major.
"I chose history because of my love of travel," he said. "I've been on every
continent on the globe: my last trip was to Antarctica. Travel and history go
together. I've always loved history. We moved a lot when I was a kid, and whenever
we moved, we would stop and see every historical monument and historical marker
along the way. History is a subject I never got tired of. My dad loved history;
he was an expert on Colorado ghost towns. He knew the legends of all the old
And while he doesn't anticipate going on for a master's degree, he doesn't plan to
stop going to school. "There are so many more courses I want to take," he said,
reeling off a laundry list of history courses he's interested in.
His courses at CSUB have modified his outlook on life. He says he knows he's changed.
And he's glad. "Going to school has been a real education," he said.
Contact: Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,