Age No Barrier For This Massachusetts Maritime Academy Graduate

Daniel D. Parker, 62, of Forestdale graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in facilities engineering.JAMES KINSELLA/ENTERPRISE - Daniel D. Parker, 62, of Forestdale graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in facilities engineering.

Many men, when they retire, aspire to slice a few strokes off their golf game or watch a lot of Red Sox games on television.

Daniel D. Parker of Grandwood Drive in Forestdale aspired to obtain a bachelor’s degree in facility engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Last month, Mr. Parker, now 62, realized his aspiration, graduating with the academy’s 2014 class, most of whom are young enough to be his children.

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But he found that what the students may have lacked in years was more than made up by their knowledge of subjects such as algebra, physics and computer science.

The support that a number of the students provided him in some of the more scientific courses played a key role in helping him achieve his goal.

“You have to have a humility,” Mr. Parker said about accepting instruction from his younger classmates. “Your pride, you park it at the door.”

All the same, Mr. Parker said he mixed easily with the other academy students.

“They liked me,” he said. “We got along pretty good. I knew things they didn’t, and they knew things I didn’t.”

Mr. Parker grew up in the Westfield area, where he attended vocational school. In 1971, he went directly from a tobacco farm where he was working and enlisted in the Coast Guard, beginning a 36-year career.

His experiences over the years with the Coast Guard included service on an ice-breaker in the Antarctic and helping guide B-52s on bombing missions from a Loran station in Thailand.

By the time of his retirement from the service in 2007, he said, he was the most senior warrant officer in the Coast Guard.

Along the way, he married. He and his wife, Olga E. Parker, have five children between them.

Following his retirement, Mr. Parker thought about what else he could do. He had acquired a 3rd stationary engineer’s license, a kind of license that would open up the possibility of various facility management jobs.

But he found himself getting beaten out for employment by Mass Maritime graduates.

Yet his retirement had brought him a bonus: an opportunity to tap into the post-9/11 GI bill, legislation that would pay full college tuition.

Thus armed, he applied to and was accepted at Mass Maritime. Before entering the academy, he honed and updated his algebra skills at Cape Cod Community College to prepare for his coursework at the academy.

At Mass Maritime, which he entered in September 2010, he became one of a handful of “commuter” students sharing classes with the young students of the “regiment,” who board at the school.

The academy coursework was no day at the beach. “It was hard,” Mr. Parker said.

And while he got A’s in non-scientific courses, he found he had to take a couple of physics and math courses again to obtain the necessary credits.

But he persevered, graduating last month.

“I did enjoy it,” Mr. Parker said of his Mass Maritime experience. “I enjoyed working with the young people. They make you feel young.”

Now he has relaunched his search for a facilities or building management job. And now, instead of getting beaten out by Mass Maritime graduates, he is one. 

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