Young man Reid

Sinclair Lewis wrote an interesting short story — “Young Man Axelbrod” — about an old gent who matriculates at Yale at age 65. The story was originally published in the Century magazine in 1917. I read it in high school and it has stayed with me over the years.

“With a longing for music and books and graciousness such as the most ambitious boy could never comprehend,” Lewis writes of Axelbrod, “this thick-faced farmer dedicated himself to beauty, and defied the unconquerable power of approaching old age. He sent for college catalogues and school books, and diligently began to prepare himself for college.” From Minneapolis he heads to New Haven. Things don’t work out as hoped, yet Lewis’s admiring assessment of Axelbrod is reflected in the title of the story.

The story may have been a novelty in Lewis’s day, though it certainly isn’t anymore. Today’s Wall Street Journal features the story of Jerry Reid, who matriculated at the University of Virginia at age 66. At age 70, he is on the verge of graduation, and it sounds like it may be too late to stop now.

Virginia basketball and other extracurricular activities loom large in the story. There is more to it than that and it is all inspirational in its own way. Somehow, however, the story overlooks the challenge of tuition. How could the Wall Street Journal leave the financial angle unexamined?

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