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Student, 78, Graduates From USC Upstate

Dec 18, 2017 12:40PM ● Published by Kathleen Maris

When he graduates in December, Mario Maggio, a native New Yorker who moved to the Upstate in 2002, will be 78 years old, and the oldest USC Upstate baccalaureate recipient on record.

“I’m a couple of credits short of graduation, and I’m going to graduate this December if they have to take me down on a stretcher,” Maggio said during a recent interview. “Nothing is going to stop me from it. I’m going to do whatever I have to do.”

When, at 17, he decided to drop out of high school, Maggio enlisted in the Marines, and went on to serve two years in the late 1950s. While in service, Maggio earned his GED.

He then went on to build a diverse assortment of careers – all successful – from a management position at a leading Wall Street investment bank to president of a taxi-drivers cooperative to restaurant ownership.

After retiring and moving to Florida, Maggio started buying rentals, and had 27 properties before he sold them and moved to the Upstate in 2002 to be closer to his adult children and their children.

In 2006, Maggio experienced health issues and required heart surgery. While he recuperated, he said that he wanted something to do. That’s when he decided to return to school.

“One day I sat there and said to my wife, ‘you know, I’m 66 years old, and I really feel that I should be doing something, but I don’t know what to do’,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m going to go over to Greenville Tech and see if I can pass the entrance exam, and if I pass the entrance exam, I’m just going to take a class. I’ll take something that I like, and it will be something to get up every morning and go to.’”

At first he took a business class, which he said he enjoyed; then, he switched to history.

Maggio earned an associate’s degree from Greenville Tech, and then transferred to USC Upstate and began working on a bachelor’s degree.

Maggio has tackled the coursework slowly as he has also dealt with health issues, but he’s not stopped. Because of diminished hearing, Maggio always makes sure to sit near the front of a classroom, and his professors have been very good about accommodating that and any other needs that he might have, he said.

Associate Professor Paul Grady, Ph.D., said it’s always a pleasure to see that Maggio is in one of his classes. Grady said the students also enjoy Maggio’s contributions to the classroom experience.

“I think Mario has done as much for us and the students in the classroom as we have done for him,” Grady said. “He’s the father figure everybody loves.”

Maggio said he expects to graduate with a 3.4 GPA and a Bachelor of Arts; he has specialized in Colonial America, especially the period around the formation of the constitution.

Even though Maggio has seen a lot of history in the making, he said that’s not why he’s interested in his chosen field of study.

“I think about the people I’m studying, not the events,” he explained. “I put myself in their place, and think about what kind of determination it took to succeed.”

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