John Ed Mathison headshot

When you have a goal in life, don’t give up on it. It may take a lot of years to accomplish it – but don’t ever quit. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

    This year, a United Methodist preacher in Texas celebrated his 99th birthday and had the opportunity to walk across the stage at Big Sandy High School graduation ceremony. He always wanted that diploma – and he finally got it.

    Jack Hetzel is a smart man. He didn’t have a degree, but he learned how to learn in life. He has written eight books and is a president and CEO of Hetzel & Hetzel Enterprises, and he was a military science instructor at Texas A&M.

    He was forced to drop out of school in the third grade. He did receive his GED in 1948. Interestingly, the school he attended when he was growing up has no record of his attending, which made it hard for him to get his diploma. But that did not deter him. The superintendent of Sandy High School said, “We’re really proud to be able to give something that means so much to him. It’s going to be one of the highlights of my school year, for sure.”

    He is a Korean War and WWII veteran. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge, Normandy, and many other major battles. He was only recognized by the Texas Senate this past Memorial Day for his tremendous accomplishments.

    While Jack did not get his high school diploma, he had to figure out other ways to learn. He said, “When you have little education and then you have to come up through life and you have to confront life with little education, you have to learn somehow.”

    He said that he would seek out alternative ways to learn. He would look to people around him and ask questions. His teachers weren’t in school but in his everyday life. He said, “If I got a question, I’d go to somebody I knew and ask them the question, and then I would use it in everyday life.”

    Oftentimes, the best education we get doesn’t come from a classroom – it comes from knowing the kind of people who can answer the questions that we have. Getting an education in “everyday experiences by everyday people teaches valuable lessons for learning.”

    Jack told news reporters in an interview, “Ninety-nine years of age; that’s something to be blessed about. I know my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – that’s enough to be blessed about. How much more do I need?” The most important thing he learned is “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

    How educated are you? I’m not asking how many diplomas you have – how smart are you? I obviously am in favor of formal education. Receiving educational degrees is important, but too many people tend to die by degrees!

    When does school start? Today!!