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Joe Wilson proves it is never too late to earn your degree at Morehead State 

embedded-news-joe-wilson.webpJoe Wilson (Class of 2023) is a carpenter who spent most of his life building things for pleasure, as a profession, or a little bit of both. As he reached the typical retirement age, Wilson, now 72, decided he did not want to slow down. He wanted to build on his education and earn his college degree from Morehead State University.  

Wilson grew up on a farm in Asher in Leslie County as one of 11 brothers and sisters. He helped one of his neighbors build a house when he was a young boy and found his passion, dropping out of high school at 16 to build homes and support his family. He built many houses and a few businesses (including a small grocery store and restaurant he went on to run briefly and later sell) over 35 years in carpentry.  

"I just like to work outside, you know," Wilson said. "To build homes, it's just something I like to do."  

Wilson kept building houses but wanted something to occupy his time in the colder months. However, instead of picking up a new hobby or interest, Wilson wanted to be known as something else: a college graduate.  

Wilson earned his GED and enrolled in the Hazard Community & Technical College in the fall of 2016. He took part-time classes and earned an associate's degree in the fall of 2020.  

Tracy Counts, a transfer advisor and enrollment services counselor for regional campuses, taught Wilson as an adjunct instructor in her Introduction to Gerontology course. When he expressed an interest in transferring to MSU, she and the staff at the University Center of the Mountains (where he took his MSU classes) did everything they could to help him navigate online courses. They adopted him as the "office grandpa."  

"We would all worry if he was late coming to do his coursework on Mondays and Fridays," Counts said. "He has such a sweet spirit about him that he is wonderful to be around."  

"She kind of kept making sure I kept my classes up to date and stuff like that," Wilson said of Counts. "They're all nice people, and they're all real good to me."  

Wilson enjoyed taking many math and science classes at MSU on his way to earning a Bachelor of University Studies in December of 2023 at age 71. As a father of two and a beaming grandfather, his achievement made many people happy and proud.  

"...And me being so young, you know," Wilson said, laughing. "It means a lot to me, of course. I don't praise myself, but I'm glad I got my college degree at my age."  

Wilson is still building houses and plans to start another one next month. He said he would eventually slow down on the carpentry and use his degree to get a part-time job at Hazard Community & Technical College, where President/CEO Jennifer Lindon told him he has a standing offer to join the staff.  

"Jennifer told me she'd find me something to do," he said.  

Counts said assisting and mentoring Wilson toward earning his college degree was rewarding and insightful.  

"Helping him gave me a better perspective of what students face when transferring to Morehead State once they have finished the transfer process with admissions. This was a great experience for me as well. I'm so proud of him sticking with it when it was getting hard toward the end," she said. "He was determined to finish what he had started even though the dream was over 50 years in the making."  

"If anybody's 70-plus and wants to get a college degree, I'll praise them for that," Wilson said. "I'd encourage them to go ahead and go back to college if they wanted to...ain't nothing wrong with getting a good education."  

To learn more about transferring to MSU or completing your degree, visit, email or call 606-783-2000.

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