Michael Nicholson’s 1960’s vintage green Smith-Corona typewriter has been with him through countless projects, literature reviews and research papers. It has helped him work his way to earning one bachelor’s degree, one Ph.D. and 27 other advanced degrees. His first college graduation was from Detroit’s William Tyndale College in 19643, and the most recent have been master’s degrees from Grand Valley State University in general education (2005), public administration (2008), health administration (2009) and special education administration (2010).
The 73 year-old retiree was born to a Canadian father who never finished third grade and a mother who did not pursue education beyond her high school diploma, yet Nicholson pursued his passion for education and currently holds the unofficial world record for earning the most college degrees. He chose Grand Valley because of its convenience, but discovered a deeper connection when he arrived at the Pew Campus in Grand Rapids.
“The DeVos Center food court looks like a train station. I feel at home when I walk into that building.”
Nicholson grew up traveling by steam train to and from Canada to visit family. He met his wife Sharon while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Detroit. The two have been living in Kalamazoo, Michigan since 1980.
Four Laker commencement tassels are proudly dangling above a desk in his home office next to the dozens of others. He expects to add a fifth to the collection when he completes his final class in the master of criminal justice program in the fall of 2014.
“The more I went to school, the more I saw the professors had something I didn’t have, so I wanted to get what they have,” he said.
Nicholson took some early advice to heart; don’t quit too soon. With a short-term goal of receiving thirty-three college degrees in all, he insisted that he will keep taking classes until he is no longer able to strike the ivory colored keys on his trusty typewriter.