Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2011

90-year-old among grads at FAU summer commencement

BOCA RATON –Florida Atlantic University conferred nearly 1,700
degrees during three recent commencement ceremonies in the

Carole and Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium on the Boca
Raton campus.
Among the grads was 90-year-old Menachem Henri Hager who
credits his 90 years of life to

his “own philosophy” which he

developed from reading Socrates and Plato – never stress, eat well
and always continue to learn and question things.

These ideals, combined with extensive life experiences, an exposure
to various cultures and finding “true love,” led Hager to reach his
highest pinnacle yet.

Hager became the oldest graduate of FAU when he received his master’s degree in liberal studies from the Dorothy F. Schmidt
College of Arts and Letters on Tuesday, Aug. 9. The date was also
his 90 birthday.

“I love to study, and I love to see different environments compared
to the materialistic environment around me,” said Hager. “I like to
live my philosophy. And I believe in democracy, pure democracy.
Everyone should have access and utilize education in all forms.”

Born in 1921 in North Africa, Hager spent his youth at sea. When
World War II broke out, he volunteered to serve in the North African
Navy and took part in some of the hardest-fought sea battles against
the Nazis.

Hager later joined both the French Navy in Paris and then the
Israeli Navy in Israel. It was during his time that he learned to
speak German, Arabic, Italian, French, Hebrew, Spanish and some

After the war, Hager met the love of his life, Ellen, on board a

passenger ship, and they were married in 1967. Once discharged
from the Navy, he worked as an electrician in Ohio and eventually
took a job with a contractor working at FAU in the late 1970s.

Over the years, Ellen, a graduate of Ohio State University, urged
Henry to pursue a college degree, and he eventually took her advice,
beginning his studies at Broward College at the age of 73. Ellen
died just before Henry graduated from BC during their 34th year of

“Before she died, my wife said to me, ‘please always stay young for
me,’” said Hager. “She pushed me to stay active, and it was very
important to her that I got my bachelor’s degree and my master’s
degree because she knew how much I loved to learn.”

The sky is still the limit for Hager, who has no plans of stopping. “I
would like to go for my doctorate in philosophy or anthropology. I find
it very interesting,” said Hager. “I’d also like to visit the north and go
skiing again because I absolutely love the snow. And I would like to
teach piano to students and show them how to play Bach, Bach and
more Bach.”

“Commencement is a wonderful opportunity for FAU to celebrate the
great accomplishments of these graduates,” said FAU President Mary
Jane Saunders. “We congratulate all of our graduates and hope they
will continue to be part of the FAU family as active alumni.”

The graduation ceremony also honored Dr. Ira J. Gelb with the
President’s Distinguished Service Medallion. A board-certified
cardiologist, Gelb has a long history of volunteer service to the
university. He currently is assistant dean for pre-baccalaureate
programs, co-director of cardiology and a clinical professor of
biomedical science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at

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