Decades after leaving school to care for his ailing parents, veteran receives his college degree

"It's indescribable because it's something that I've wanted for so long," said Larry McKillip, a U.S. Navy veteran who has esophageal cancer.


A man who had to leave college a few credits shy of graduating finally received a degree that's been decades in the making.

Larry McKillip left the University of Louisville in 1979 during his senior year to take care of his parents.

"It was absolutely a surprise. Everyone kept me completely in the dark for the last week. I could not get anything out of anyone," said McKillip, who's a U.S. Navy veteran.

Three years ago, he was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer.

That diagnosis is what prompted his son-in-law, Jason Beavers, to contact the university in hopes he could make his father-in-law's dream come true.

"He teaches me so much on a weekly basis, but having it made official is just like the circle has been complete," Beavers said.

McKillip earned the rank of petty officer second class before he was discharged from the Navy in 1971. He served two years in Vietnam on the medical team of a Marine Corps boat.

McKillip worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs for years following his service and says he always tried to finish school.

Over the years, McKillip tried to complete his degree, but life got in the way.

"It's indescribable because it's something that I've wanted for so long and felt like that something was missing in my life," he said.

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