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Reverend Horace Sheffield Receives Shorter University Diploma 58 Years after Starting

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Shorter University President Don Dowless congratulates Horace Sheffield on receiving his degree as the crowd gives a standing ovation. Standing at right is Amanda Brannock, a neighbor who was invited to Sheffield's church soon after she moved to Georgia and went on to help the retired pastor complete his required coursework. Brannock's husband and son were both baptized through Sheffield's ministry, she said. DAWN TOLBERT/Shorter

By Caleb Britt

ROME — As Shorter University’s Class of 2017 walked across the stage at the Winthrop-King Centre to receive their diplomas, one graduate in particular was completing a very long journey.

Horace Sheffield first enrolled at Shorter in 1961 but left without a diploma in 1965 because his own daughters were soon to enter college. On Friday, May 5, 2017, the 88-year-old completed his journey and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Studies. He is the first graduate of Shorter’s online degree program in Christian Studies.

“I didn’t care about having a diploma back then, but I’m getting my degree this time,” he said.

The retired pastor said he was inspired to complete his degree after reading a magazine article stating that senior citizens can often attend certain colleges and universities without paying tuition. He had left Shorter with 115 hours and came back determined to graduate. He said the Christian Studies faculty helped him to achieve his goal.

Shorter University graduate Horace Sheffield gets a selfie with great-granddaughters Bella and Lilly. DONNA FLOURNOY PHOTOGRAPHY/Special

Gifts given, and received

Also helping was his neighbor and technical assistant, Amanda Brannock, who helped him type his papers and enter online assignments after he wrote them by hand.

“I saw him write until his hands couldn’t write anymore, and I’ve seen him focus so hard to the point where his vision wasn’t normal,” Mrs. Brannock said.

An early literacy teacher at a primary school, Mrs. Brannock said she believes Mr. Sheffield is one of the hardest working students with a great work ethic. She also said that he has been an inspiration to her as he has worked to achieve his goal.

“I moved to Georgia five years ago, and Horace was one of the first people I met here. He came to my home to talk to my family about accepting the Lord and becoming members of the church. It’s because of Horace I was able to see my husband and my son baptized,” Mrs. Brannock said.

“When he approached me about going back to college, he said it was the only thing in life he had never finished, and he did not want to meet the Lord without that degree. He said he knew nothing about computers let alone own one. So I said, ‘Pop, I’ve got a computer and a printer, and I’ll get you internet. Let’s go for a ride.’ He gave me the gift of God in my husband and son; I could do no less than help him get an education. We are so proud of him,” she said.

Horace Sheffield stands in front of Calvary Baptist Church in Barnesville, where he served as pastor from 1975-89 and is now pastor emeritus. DONNA FLOURNOY PHOTOGRAPHY/Special

A living challenge

Mrs. Brannock added that she attended commencement with Mr. Sheffield as well. “I was also able to walk across the stage with him. We went in as a team, and we wanted to come out as a team!”

The majority of the Sheffield family gathered to celebrate his graduation, including his two children, five grandchildren, and 14 of his 15 great-grandchildren.

Sheffield hopes to motivate people of all ages to get as much education as they can as soon as they can. He believes he is called to challenge people to raise themselves to a higher level.

“I am living proof that you have no excuses,” he said.

A Facebook photo gallery of him wearing his cap and gown has gained hundreds of likes. In one photo, he is holding a sign that reads “With God all things are possible – Matthew 19:26.” He is living proof.


Caleb Britt is a Public Relations student writer and 2017 Shorter University graduate.

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