By Janelle Lilley
Russellville, AR (KATV/CNN) - An Arkansas man finally received his college degree, 71 years after he started.
Charlie Ball, 89, joined thousands of graduates at Arkansas Tech.
He started college back in 1941, but duty called as Americans went to war.
Saturday, he received his Bachelors degree.
As proud parents scanned the capped crowd for their graduate, they might have noticed some silver hair peeking out from one of those caps.
That man with the contagious smile is Charlie Ball, who first attended Arkansas Tech in 1941, but December 7th and Pearl Harbor changed his plans.
"I joined the old army air corps and they sent me for pilot's training down in Texas," said Ball.
When the war ended, he picked up a few classes here and there, and went to work with his father.
But as the years went on, he became a grandpa, and knew he wanted to set an example, so he worked with tech to compile his transcripts.
"We were able to put all that together and we discovered and he discovered that it was possible to graduate," said Dr. Charles Brown, President of Arkansas Tech University.
Ball called his granddaughter Madaline to share the news.
"He said guess what I'm doing on May 12th, and I said what are you doing Grandpa Charlie? And he said, I'm graduating from college," said Madaline Meatte.
"They thought it was good. I said the reason I was doing it so that it would get them all enthused, my grandchildren would all get their degrees too," said Ball.
He wasn't surprised by this so-called spit-fires decision, but when he went the graduation invitation to a former high school friend, it caused some confusion.
"He said, 'It sure is good to see your grandchildren graduate.' He thought it was my grandchild. I had to call him back and tell him, no it's me," said Ball.
As you can see, his personality makes him easily the most popular student on campus.
"Everyone knows who he is and they are all inspired by his story and that he never gave up," said Meatte.
"I've been in this business 44 years and I've never had such an honor as to be able to confer a degree on a gentleman like Charlie Ball," said Dr. Brown.
Ball is the oldest person to ever graduate from Arkansas Tech.