97-Year-old WWII Army Veteran Goes Back to School and Gets College Degree
William "Bill" Gossett was honored with an Associate of Arts degree at Lincoln College's Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 8th, 2021 in Lincoln, Illinois at the age of 97.
Gossett is a U.S. Army veteran, community leader and volunteer, outstanding Lincoln College supporter, and a successful retired businessman.
Gossett first came to Lincoln College in 1941 for his education, before transferring to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His educational journey was cut short upon learning of the attacks on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Gossett swiftly put his life on hold to serve in the United States Army Air Corps in the U.S. and Europe from 1943 to 1946, during the height of World War II.
"I knew I was going to enlist. I signed up in October 1942and got called to report in February 1943," said Gossett.
After returning home, Gossett took over the family business, Gossett's Cleaners, which served the Lincoln Community for 75 years. He later started Gossett's Decorator Studio and ran both businesses until retiring in 2001.
While Gossett has been a successful businessman for decades, he is best known for his selfless service to Lincoln and Logan County(Ill). He has been an active member of numerous civic organizations including the Abraham Lincoln Hospital Association, American Legion, Knight's Templar, Lincoln Rotary, Lincoln Toastmasters Club, Lincoln-Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Masons, Oasis Senior Center, Salvation Army, and the Union Cemetery Association. He is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, and co-hosts the radio show, "View Point," on WLCN in Atlanta, Illinois.
Always putting education as a priority, Gossett has held a number of roles within Logan County schools. Gossett has served on the Lincoln District 27 and West Lincoln-Broadwell School Boards, Lincoln Community High School Steering Committee, and as a mentor to students at Washington-Monroe grade school. He has shared his love of education at the Logan Correctional Center and is a positive role model for all aspects of education.
"In 2019, Mr. Gossett came to me and said he wanted to finish his associate's degree at Lincoln College," recalls Lincoln College President David Gerlach. "After meeting with the Registrar's Office, we determined that Gossett could reenroll as a reverse transfer student with Prior Learning Assessment credits. We were inspired by his desire to obtain a degree 80 years after his education began," added Gerlach.
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) credit recognizes learning that is completed outside of the classroom and can allow a student to enroll in more advanced courses without some prerequisites.
"There was always a void there but I was busy learning to run a business. Time went by and I finally decided to finish my degree. It was a goal of self-fulfillment," said Gossett.
After some additional coursework, Gossett completed his Associate of Arts degree in 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, 2020 graduates were given the opportunity to walk in the 2021 ceremony.
"I was tickled to death inside participating in commencement," said Gossett.
Gossett noted his favorite part of the commencement ceremony was watching the virtual faculty and staff messages to graduates. "That speaks to what Lincoln College is all about. Faculty and staff sincerely care about the students. Their messages weren't cookie-cutter," noted Gossett.
Gossett's father and aunt also graduated from Lincoln College in 1919. Many other members of his family are also alums.
At his side for 70 years is Gossett's wife, Rhoda "Jean" Gossett. Bill and Jean Gossett have been active and enthusiastic supporters of Lincoln College, its mission, and its programs for decades. He joined the Lincoln College Board of Trustees in 1998 and served as a member of the Board for 15 years. Upon his retirement from the Board, Gossett was elected as Trustee Emeritus in 2013.
Gossett was inducted into the Lincoln College Athletic Hall of Fame as a Friend of Athletics in 2017. He was also the recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award that same year.
Gossett was presented the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters virtually on November 11, 2021.
After many accomplishments in his 97 years, he has one favorite quote he lives by, "Don't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. Throw something back."