Bill Ritter proves it's never too late to graduate, earns degree 44 years later

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Our very own Bill Ritter became a college graduate of The New School on Friday.

For the last four years, Bill has been working diligently; in fact most nights when he wasn't working on the shows you'd find him engrossed in his homework.

It started, of course, with being a dad and one important mission.

"I wanted to teach them a lesson and say that you are never too old to learn," Bill said.

For most people it takes about four years. For Bill Ritter though, the journey from "almost cut my hair" to "pomp and circumstances" took, well, a bit longer.

"44 years," Ritter said.

Bill Ritter now is restive, curious, and ruthlessly impartial. But Bill Ritter was once was restive and curious for sure, but not the least bit impartial.

"These people fought a war that America didn't like, and they served and they died. So, I gave up a college degree, I didn't think it was a big deal," Bill said.

Bill was expelled from San Diego State University in 1972 about a semester shy of a diploma, after leading a Vietnam War protest. He moved on.

"I became a reporter right away," Bill said.

And the years passed. Bill started at an underground newspaper, moved to more mainstream print, and then TV. He didn't think about finishing college until his daughter Mia brought it up, 40 years later.

"He was the perfect person to go back. He's not the person to ever leave something incomplete, he's one who always wants to go further," Mia said.

"My mind was open to it. My whole DNA was open to it," Bill said.

Bill dove right in; essentially going to school with his children. Owen was in college on the west coast.

"Being on the other side of the country, obviously I was still awake when he would go home from work late at night and be up for another two hours doing his homework," Owen said.

"He's a lifelong learner. He was so energized by this. We all felt the energy, we all kind of got high with him as he went through this process," said Kathleen Friery, Bill's wife.

But the kids learned too, even Bill's youngest, 6-year-old Ella. Bill shared an email from her teacher.

"She told me you protested to stand up for what was right when you were younger, which is why you didn't finish school," Ritter read from the email.

Mission accomplished!
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