College of Liberal Arts

Learning is Living: A B.A. in Classics at 80

Thu, Dec 21, 2017
Orr stands amongst Histria ruins in Romania.
Orr stands amongst Histria ruins in Romania.

Terry Orr jokes that pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in classical archeology in his late 70’s was all a ploy to avoid retirement.

“A lot of people retire because they are tired of driving to the same office and dealing with the same people; but when you work for yourself, it’s different. You aren’t trying to escape a routine,” Orr says, earnestly.

By the time Orr enrolled in the classics program at The University of Texas at Austin, he had already completed his bachelor’s and master’s in engineering at Texas A&M University, served active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army and captain in Army Reserves, engineered international marine construction projects, oversaw operations at refineries in the Middle East, started and ran his own international offshore equipment business (OceanTec Electronics), served as Mayor of Bastrop, and earned a black belt in Matsumura Shorin-Ryu Karate.

“I was good at math, physics and chemistry, so all of my prior education was so I could make another dollar,” Orr says. “But this time, I wanted to get educated; I wanted a liberal arts education. I wanted to learn how to learn things I hadn’t learned before, like Latin.”

He was inspired, in part, by his family of thoughtful, “creative” types — his wife is a retired history professor, his son is a musician, his oldest daughter studied history and French at Rice University, and his youngest daughter was educated in Greek at UT Austin.

“I was always on the outside looking in and wanted to expand my liberal arts knowledge and understanding of the world,” Orr says. So, at age 76, during his third and final term as Bastrop mayor, he went back to school. And now, at the age of 80, he can add B.A. in classical archeology to his ever-growing list of accomplishments.

Read the full story at Life & Letters online.


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