Campus: San Francisco State University -- May 14, 2003

SFSU's Oldest Graduate: 77-Year-Old Veteran Earns Fourth College Degree

Stockton resident Raymond King has studied foreign languages, literatures at SFSU since 1993

At a time when most retirees rest and relax, Stockton resident Raymond King began his university education at age 67.

King’s parents would not allow him to attend college when he was young. Instead, he served as a cadet for the British Navy from 1946 to 1953 and fought in the Korean War. He then moved to Hong Kong, married and raised five children while working various jobs for the Hong Kong government until 1986. His last job was as a housing manager for the Hong Kong government.
At San Francisco State University’s 102nd Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 24, King will earn his fourth degree — a master of arts in Chinese literature. He is the oldest graduate among the 7,238 students in SFSU’s Class of 2003.

King, 77, has made up for lost time by attending SFSU full time for 10 years. A language and literature lover, the Shanghai native has earned bachelor’s degrees in Chinese literature and Japanese. He also has taken Spanish and Italian courses at SFSU and holds an associate degree in real estate from City College of San Francisco.

“I like reading books and I like to translate them,” King said, referring to his longtime interest in Chinese classics such as “The Dream of the Red Chamber.” “I have always loved literature and this school has allowed me to expand my knowledge and interest.”

In the early 1990s, he turned down opportunities to work in the Bay Area real-estate market, instead choosing to further pursue his higher education. Unlike most college students, he is not interested in using his degrees to get a job.

“I come here to study for the knowledge — not for anything else,” he said. “My reasons are different than some others. Four degrees at my old age? I’m very proud of myself.” Charles Egan, assistant professor of Chinese literature, said King is “young at heart and is a real character.” Egan has enjoyed having him as a student.

“He is committed to classical Chinese literature and really enjoys it,” Egan said. “He always was a nice, supportive member of our group of Chinese literature students and faculty, which is pretty small and close-knit.”

King moved from Hong Kong to Louisiana in 1988 because one of his sons lived there. The following year he moved to San Francisco, then to Fremont several years ago and Stockton last year.

King, whose daughter Ann King earned a bachelor’s degree in business from SFSU, enjoys reading and jogging in his spare time. A grandfather of seven who now lives alone, he believes that exercising, eating healthfully and continuously expanding his mind are the keys to a happy elderly life.

“If you have knowledge, you can have anything you like,” he said. “At my age, I’m still very clear in my brain.” King finished all course requirements for his master’s degree last year. His final exam, a rigorous two-part test in Chinese, was the only requirement left for him to receive his diploma.

He is now putting a close on his college career. His only plan after Commencement is to continue reading, catching up on the many books in his home.

NOTE: To arrange interviews with Raymond King, contact the SFSU Office of Public Affairs at
(415) 338-1665 or matti@sfsu.edu. King will be available for interviews before the Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 24. A transcript of SFSU’s Commencement will be posted online shortly after the conclusion of Commencement on May 24 at: www.sfsu.edu/~news.


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