FALMOUTH — Plenty of University of Maine students find themselves on the five-year plan. Howard Reiche Jr. puts them to shame.

On Tuesday, the university awarded Reiche a master’s degree that he started in 1950.

“It’s been on my bucket list,” the 85-year-old Falmouth resident said before a ceremony Tuesday for him and his family at UMaine’s Regional Learning Center at Tidewater Farm.

After graduating from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Reiche enrolled in a master’s program in zoology at the University of Maine with plans to go into research. But when he was halfway through his thesis on the genetics of bees – after completing the coursework and passing the finals – the university realized Reiche had never taken organic chemistry as an undergraduate, a prerequisite of the program.

Out of money and in line to get drafted into the military, Reiche didn’t have the means to stick around campus to complete the course. So he abandoned his thesis and got a job teaching in Waterville before enlisting in the military.

Reiche went on to have a 32-year career at the S.D. Warren paper mill in Westbrook, retiring in 1988 as mill manager. After that, he and his son, Ford Reiche, started a chemical handling business in Auburn that they have since sold.

This summer, Howard Reiche said, he was sitting around thinking about things he hadn’t accomplished and decided to make a phone call to see how he could complete his master’s degree.

That turned out to be his last grad school assignment.

After reviewing his transcript and resume, university officials determined that Reiche’s work experience could be considered equivalent to the coursework he would have needed for a non-thesis master’s in biochemistry.

Carol Kim, UMaine’s vice president for research and graduate school dean, handed Reiche the framed diploma Tuesday in front of his wife, his sister, his children and their spouses.

“I’m expecting an application for a Ph.D. degree now,” she told him.

Reiche doesn’t plan to continue his formal education, but will definitely update his resume.

Getting that master’s degree wasn’t the only unfinished business on his bucket list.

In recent years, Reiche has taken up some old hobbies, including swimming, painting with watercolors and playing the cello.

Now he may put his new degree to use.

The son of the namesake of Howard C. Reiche Community School in Portland said he would also like to pick up some work teaching or tutoring.

He was already qualified. But now, he said, “I have the credentials.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.