Air Force Instructor to Complete Sixth College Degree at Age 60

A group of hands holding diplomas and graduation caps against a cloudy sky
Category: Success Stories

By Brittany Fillmore
Posted on

When Hugh Poe retired from the Air Force in 2006, the last thing he saw himself doing was going back to school.

Hugh earned his first degree in 1978, an associate in business, followed by two additional associate degrees in 2005—one in fire science and the other in technology. When he retired from the Air Force, Hugh was 46 years old, married with children and continuing a great career as a firefighter instructor for the U.S. Air Force.

As life so often happens, 10 years later, a coworker told Hugh that he was receiving GI Bill® benefits while he worked toward his associate degree. His coworker encouraged Hugh to do the same.

So, at age 56, Hugh decided to pursue yet another college degree—an associate degree in occupational safety and health from CSU.

“Believe me, I was skeptical at first. I had never taken an online class and it was almost nine years since I attended a [college] class,” he said.

Hugh admits it felt a little “bumpy” at first but with the help of his academic advisor, Sherry, he finished his degree program strong and was ready to begin on the next one.

Sherry encouraged him to pursue his bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health, and when he whizzed through that, she also encouraged him to complete his master’s degree.

“At that point, I was asking myself why [I should pursue a master’s degree] at my age,” said Hugh. “Sherry was an inspiration for me to purse the master’s program when I almost felt that I was at the end of the road and should just retire with my current job.”

Hugh is nearly halfway through his degree program and is looking forward to finishing his master’s in emergency management in July. He says he is glad he decided to take the leap.

“I will be 60 years old when I complete my master’s and I am definitely going to have a resume ready to see what’s out there,” he said. “Having these options, I have the opportunity to pick and choose [my next career move]. If there is something better out there, here I come.”

Hugh is looking forward to 2018—to turning 60, celebrating 30 years of marriage, spending time with his five grandchildren, earning his sixth college degree and possibly starting a new career. The future certainly looks bright for this Knight! 

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at