At 93, Utahn who started school in horse and buggy finishes online MBA
Clyde Wagnon always said anyone with an engineering degree and an MBA could rise to the head of any company, with plenty of hard work.
But he'd never had the chance to test the idea personally. So when he saw an ad for a online master's of business administration program at Stevens-Henager College, he decided to get the degree nonagenarian status be darned.
Three years later, the 93-year-old is set to graduate from the private nonprofit college Saturday. Along with Saratoga Springs mayor Mia Love, Wagnon will speak to more than 470 graduates at to the school's first online program graduation ceremony at Salt Lake City's Capitol Theater, 50 W. 200 South.
Democratic Utah Congressman Jim Matheson, who fended off a challenge from rising Republican star Love last year, was set to address more than 160 graduates from the school's Salt Lake City-Murray campus Friday night.
"The computer gave me more trouble than the courses," said a vibrant Wagnon, wearing an argyle sweater, blazer and tie for a recent interview. He had owned a computer before starting his MBA, "but all I used it for is to write letters I didn't have to use an eraser on."
Wagnon mastered graphing software, statistics and money management in the program, and wrote his final capstone paper about his own life.
"One instructor said, 'At your age, you've got a legacy for posterity,' " he said.
The son of an Oklahoma preacher and farmer who went to school in a horse-drawn buggy, Wagnon served in the U.S. Air Force and was discharged in 1945. He earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, then started a wide-ranging career that would take him from project management to home building to sales. He owned his own industrial gear sales company for 25 years, then moved on to manufactured home and real estate sales.
He was living in Idaho Falls when he saw the newspaper ad.
"Well, I needed something to do, so I took it," he said.
Online MBAs from Stevens-Henager typically cost between $28,000 and $29,000, according to online advancement coordinator J'Ann Sherry, though Wagnon said a scholarship paid for most of his education.
Now that he's finished Wagnon said he plans to write he's revising a novel he wrote about a teenager on a wagon train in the 1870s and speak. He's talking to Stevens-Henager about doing outreach work for the school.
"Everyone is interested in someone who's out of the mold, and I'm definitely out of the mold ... I'll talk to anybody that forms an audience," he said with the sparkle of a longtime salesman.
He has four children and 20 grandchildren, and recently married 78-year-old Delores Bennion after the death of his wife. The couple lives in Toquerville.
"Well, at my age most people say I couldn't do [the program,] and it's true for my family too," he said. "But I'm doing it and they appreciate that. They think it's great."