When Michael Gordon
walks across the stage to receive his diploma from the University of San
Francisco Friday, he’ll be a little late. Forty-eight years late, to be
Gordon dropped out of
USF in 1963, just one semester shy of graduating, after deciding that he
couldn’t afford to continue college and also provide for his wife and newborn
daughter. But, the 68-year-old returns triumphantly to the Hilltop Friday to
receive his undergraduate degree – a bachelor of arts in politics with a minor
in philosophy. The ceremony will take place at St. Ignatius Church on the USF
campus at 12 p.m on May 20.
The decision to leave
USF in 1963 has haunted him his entire life. “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. When the subject of college comes up, I will
no longer have to go into a long explanatory story about when I graduated.
Now, I can say proudly, ‘I graduated in 2011.’”
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 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 department heads 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.
Finishing the required
course work wasn’t easy. “I'd forgotten how much work it was, especially when
you’re running your own business,” Gordon said. “I jokingly told my wife one
day that these college professors don't think you have anything else to do!”
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 lives with his
wife in Anchorage. He has two children and seven grandchildren.