When Michael Gordon walked across the stage to receive his diploma from the University of San Francisco on May 20, he was a little late. Forty-eight years late, to be exact. Gordon dropped out of USF in 1963, just one semester shy of graduating, after deciding that he couldn’t afford college and also provide for his wife and newborn daughter. But, the 68-year-old returned triumphantly to the Hilltop to receive his undergraduate degree—a bachelor of arts in politics with a minor in philosophy.
The decision to leave USF in 1963 has haunted him since he left USF. “I have had recurring dreams for years about being back in college, and it’s hard to believe it has finally happened,” Gordon said. “This degree means everything in the world to me. I feel as if my life is fulfilled.”
Gordon said it was his junior year roommate, Jim McCartin ’64, MBA ’85, who gave him the encouragement he needed to finish his degree. In fact, it was McCartin who called the university on Gordon’s behalf to get the ball rolling. “This would never have happened if Jim hadn’t intervened on my behalf,” Gordon said. “I owe him a great debt of gratitude, and I also want to thank the University of San Francisco for helping make this happen.”
USF conducted an analysis of Gordon’s transcript and consulted with academic departments and professors before creating an academic program of directed study that allowed Gordon to fulfill the necessary requirements to graduate. Gordon completed two classes in politics and two in philosophy. “I think I got an ‘A’ in all of them,” Gordon said.
A mountain climber, Gordon has successfully climbed six of the “Seven Summits,” the seven highest mountains on seven continents, including Mount McKinley. The only summit to defeat him is Mount Everest. Gordon tackled that mountain three times, and has come within 1,500 feet of the top. “I wouldn’t trade getting this degree for anything, not even for reaching the summit of Mount Everest,” Gordon said.
Gordon is a licensed pilot and a certified open-water diver. He is also the founder and president of Chilkoot Charlie’s, a legendary watering hole in Anchorage. Gordon and his wife live in Anchorage. He has two children and seven grandchildren.