UC's class of Fall 2019 to include 93-year-old veteran

Paul Blom, 93, will be conferred an associate’s degree at Commencement on Saturday

It's been more than a half century since Paul Blom has taken classes at the University of Cincinnati, so he visited campus Thursday to find out what to expect when he returns Saturday for Fall Commencement.

Blom, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, attended UC in the late ‘40s and early-to-mid ‘50s, but fell a few classes short of earning a bachelor’s degree. 

Back in May, Blom’s daughter Paula Baxter reached out to the UC Board of Trustees to ask if there was any way he could be conferred an honorary degree.

Two men standing together, one of whom is handing the other a blue piece of fabric wrapped in plastic.

Paul Blom, left, receives a Navy-themed accessory for his graduation gown from Terence Harrison, program manager of UC Veterans Programs and Services. Blom, 93, will receive an associate's degree at Saturday's commencement. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

"He has talked about this almost my whole adult life," Baxter wrote. "I think it is one of his biggest regrets." 

It turns out that there's no need for Blom, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, to be given an honorary degree — or to regret not graduating. After some investigation, UC officials discovered that Blom had received more than enough credits to qualify for an associate's degree through UC Blue Ash. Blom and his family toured Fifth Third Arena on Thursday to get the lay of the land.

“I get more excited as time goes by, and I guess the countdown starts right now,” says Blom. “It’s very exciting. [UC staff] have been very thorough in the arrangements. I’m very happy that we did this today because it eases my mind to do it before the crowd gets here.” 

Blom, a Cincinnati native, joined the Navy when he was 17 in 1943. After completing officer’s academy, he was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier until about a year after the war concluded. After returning home, Blom wanted to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at UC on the G.I. Bill, but when he first applied the program was at capacity. 

An elderly man holding an old photo

Paul Blom holds up a picture of himself from his days in the Navy. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

Blom ended up attending UC's Evening College for nine years while working for his family’s trucking company, and earned a certificate in traffic management. But as he became more involved in the family business, he had less time for college.

“It’s very inspirational to see a part of the Greatest Generation receive his degree and be a part of this ceremony,” said Terence Harrison, program manager of Veterans Programs and Services. “It just goes to show that you’re never too old to see your dreams fulfilled.

“For this to cap off our bicentennial year — it just doesn’t get any better,” Harrison added. “If it does, show me, because I don’t believe it. How often do you see something like this?”

Paul Blom holds a photo of himself while in the Navy during World War II

Paul Blom holds a photo of himself while in the Navy during World War II. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

Featured image at top: Paul Blom returned to UC's campus to prepare for his commencement ceremony. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services