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70 years later, Bryan man set to fulfill his life-long dream of receiving an A&M degree

Posted at 6:53 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 19:53:32-04

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — We know the saying... It's better late than never, but for Bryan native, Dr. Joe Knowles, the meaning holds the weight of Aggie gold.

It's all part of his journey, to finish what he started in the spring of 1947.

"I had 129 hours. If I would take a 3-hour course in freehand drawing they would give me a degree.. I never did take it," Dr. Joe Knowles and soon-to-be Aggie grad said. "70 years later, my neighbor Sharon, said, "Joe, let's see if we can get your degree from A&M."

With the help of a neighbor and the experience from his medical bag, Dr. Knowles is getting his undergraduate degree. He used this bag for 35 years, but his biology degree is twice as long in the making... Growing up in Bryan he knew what it meant to be an Aggie and wanted to make sure he was one.

"The Aggies had the type of ideals.... the type of desires and whatnot that I admire," Dr. Knowles added.

"I am an Aggie myself and I have that diploma. I know how much this university means to him and I really wanted him to have it," Sharon Clements, Dr. Knowles' neighbor who helped give Knowles the push he needed said.

Maroon isn't all he knows... He had a stint as a Longhorn... but it's what Dr. Knowles knows best.

"I got my acceptance to Texas University Medical School in Galveston and I left A&M and went to University of Texas medical school in Galveston. I graduated there 1953, then I started 3 years in the Air Force and when I was going to A&M I was in the Air Force ROTC," Dr. Knowles added.

Doing it all for the little boy growing up in Bryan many years ago and for his mother who helped make it all happen.

"This bag cost 50 some odd dollars. My mother at the time was teaching school at Consolidated A and M. After my mother paid... Sent me $125 a month and my sister $150 dollars to go to school on. She had $3.25 left and they came up with $50 for my bag," Dr. Knowles added. "I would like to get this degree and the reason I moved back down here. My mother also lived here. We buried my Mother on the 4th of March 2017. She would have been 109 on the 5th of March. She lived here in Bryan."

He was a young boy in Bryan in the 40s during World War II and worked as a local paperboy, he saw something on his routes often... something that meant sacrifice and honor.

"I had a 13-mile paper route every afternoon. I passed lots of windows that had stars in the...People in that house were in the Army. A lot of those stars were gold and you know what that meant," Dr. Knowles shared.

And an Aggie degree... would be a 'star' in his window.

"If I could have a piece of paper that says "yes, Joe you graduated from A&M"," Dr. Knowles shared.

Originally, he was meant to be a member of the class of 1950.

He says he's always been an Aggie... enrolled or not.

"My wife.. she bleeds maroon. Whenever I walk across the stage and get my diploma from Texas A&M... 70 years too late... I am going to feel good in here," Dr. Knowles shared as he pointed to his heart.

Dr. Knowles believes he is one of only two who entered UTMB (University of Texas Medical Branch) at Galveston without an undergraduate degree.

"After graduating from UTMB in 1953, I served 3 years as a physician in the U.S. Air Force and then practiced in Borger Texas for over 30 years," Dr. Knowles added. " I am a member of the founding class required to pass the National Board for the American Academy of Family Practice. Afterwards, I attended required medical seminars or take post-graduate hours every 7 years to maintain my national certification."

Dr. Knowles says he left Texas A&M to attend UTMB just shy of earning his bachelor's degree.

"It would be one of the high points of my life to proudly walk across the stage and receive my diploma that I first pursued over 70 years ago," he added.

His graduation is Friday, Aug 13 at Reed Arena with the class of 2021. Graduation starts at 10 A.M.