63-Year-Old Keeps Eyes on the Prize
By Gary Glancy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal

63-year-old Larry Brewer, left, accepts his degree from Limestone President Dr. Walt Griffin.

After 22 years, class is finally out for Larry Brewer, which means more time as a husband and grandfather awaits him.

63-year-old Larry Brewer, left, accepts his degree from Limestone President Dr. Walt Griffin.

Brewer, who turns 64 next month, officially earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Limestone College May 7th as graduates from Limestone's Upstate Extended Campus program were honored at the main campus in Gaffney. It's been a long journey to get there, one born of necessity, but completed for Brewer's own personal pride.

"The last night of class was sort of bittersweet because a lot of those people I've been with one, two, three years, and you get to know them pretty good," said Brewer, who has been married to his high school sweetheart, Mildred, for 45 years and has three children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. "So I'm going to miss that part of it.

"But at the same time I've got a lot of things I've been putting on hold. My kids and grandkids have already told me they've got some woodworking projects they want me to work on. I've got a shopping list already being made up for me."

Brewer is the health, safety and environmental manager for H&L Accessory in Greer, a Federal Aviation Administration certified repair station. Part of the Aberdeen, Scotland-based Wood Group, H&L performs maintenance repair and overhaul on accessories and components used on both civilian and military aircraft. Brewer said products are sent to his company from major carriers worldwide such as US Airways, United, Continental, Delta and Air France.

The job is a major responsibility, yet for the past five years, Brewer somehow managed to leave work three nights a week and spend more than three hours in a classroom -- not to mention homework assignments on the other days.

"To me, when you think of all the people in any community that actually need education, and you hear the words come out of their mouth, 'I can't work and go to school,' or, 'I can't do both; I have too much going on to do that' ... I don't think anybody could have anymore going on than Larry, so he has actually had those obstacles," said Teresa Bratt, Upstate area coordinator for Limestone's Extended Campus, which includes sites in Gaffney and Greer, where Brewer took most of his classes. "But he never gave up on his dream, never ever. "If it's really something that you dream of, there's no obstacle that can stand in your way, and Larry is proof of that. He started in, what, 1988, and he's just now graduating. But he never gave up on that dream."

Changing times
Brewer graduated from Pickens High School and went on to earn an associate's degree in tool and dye technology from Greenville Technical College in 1971, then later taught in the program for several years.

In 1988, Brewer began taking classes toward his bachelor's at Limestone's former satellite campuses in Spartanburg and Greenville, which later consolidated into the current Greer campus at the National Guard Armory on Old Woodruff Road.

But two years later, Brewer dropped out when he took a job in Harrisburg, Pa., where he would remain for 11 years. Wanting to be closer to family, however, Brewer and his wife moved back to South Carolina at the end of 2001. But Brewer couldn't find a job, other than contract work as a quality engineer.
"So we got back down here and I started applying, and a lot of places just wanted four-year degree, four-year degree," Brewer said. Employers, he said, would tell him, "You've got all the experience and knowledge and everything, but you don't have that college degree."

"I even talked to people where I had worked at previously, and even for doing the same jobs that I had done previously for many years, I just was not able to crack that barrier to be able to get in there," Brewer said. "That's when I made the decision that I was going to go back to school."

Right after Brewer re-enrolled at Limestone in 2005, he got the job at H&L, which agreed to pay for all his tuition and books through an employee reimbursement program. "They've been real good to me," Brewer said. "Not a lot of companies will do that."

Advantages of Limestone's Extended Campus
No longer needing the degree to land a job, Brewer went for it anyway, and he said Limestone's unique class schedule for the Extended Campus Classroom program was a the perfect fit for his circumstances as a working adult.

The program divides the calendar year into 11 sessions, each lasting four weeks. One three-credit-hour course is studied intensively and completed in four weeks, with students like Brewer attending class three nights a week. When that class is completed, students begin the next.

Besides convenience, Bratt said another advantage is students are able to grasp everything about that one class and retain the information.
For Brewer, it's led him to Limestone's graduation, where 12 family members were present when Brewer accepted his hard-earned diploma. That includes his wife.

"Yes, I think (Mildred) is proud of what I've done," Brewer said. "And I'm proud of her, too, because it took a lot of help on her part to support me those five years."