PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–“You live history, but you’re also a part of history.”
Sergeant Irwin Medway earned his stripes as a combat infantryman during World War II.
“This means that no one was in front of you except the enemy. You’re the only one that faced the enemy,” Medway said.
For his service, he’s received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star Medal.
“On a combat mission, shells were coming down, I was next to my man, he gets killed, and I lose my cap, my helmet, my rifle,” he said.
He also recalls the horrors he witnessed at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in Germany.
“They killed 50,000 people from slave labor and from overwork and conditions,” Medway said. “We liberated this camp.”
On Friday, the 93-year-old will walk towards yet another accolade: an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Villanova University.
“I never anticipated that I was heading for a degree,” he said.
After all, he’s been taking at least one course per semester there for 24 years as part of the school’s Senior Citizen Personal Enrichment Program. The program allows senior citizens to take college courses for personal enrichment rather than for credits.
But he says early on, he did receive nine credits from the University.
“The only thing I haven’t taken is Latin and things that are hard,” he joked.
The most challenging class, he says, was theater.
He adds that he chose courses based on his level of interest, the scheduled times, and how close the classrooms were to handicapped parking spaces.
“There’s a warm atmosphere here that you can feel it the minute you go,” he said.
He’s also taken classes at Saint Bonaventure University, Rutgers University, and Syracuse University; however, due to circumstances, he could never complete a degree.
Before beginning classes at Villanova University in 1993, he worked for Columbia Records for more than two decades, meeting big names like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.
But one of his best life decisions, he says, is choosing Corrine.
Medway and his wife, who he affectionately calls ‘Chickie,’ have been married for 72 years and have three children together.
“In 72 years, I’ve never been able to keep my hands off her,” he said. “She has more talent than I, she has more love to give than I, she is more into knowledge than I am. She is my best friend.”
All his life, he’s been a lover of learning, a student of skillsets.
“You can never walk out of a classroom and say, ‘I didn’t learn anything today.’”
But perhaps what he never noticed is that all these years, he had been teaching those around him.
In 2006, he even received a handwritten note from the school’s basketball coach, Jay Wright.
The University’s 174th commencement ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday in the Villanova Stadium.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Anne Welsh McNulty (a 1975 graduate and co-founder of JBK Partners), and the Rev. Walter Kasuboski will also receive honorary degrees.