Back to School: 75-year-old Bastrop Mayor Enrolls at UT

After two engineering degrees from A&M, an army career, starting a successful business, political office, a happy marriage and family, and many world travels, you might expect Terry Orr to be enjoying some well-deserved R&R. But the mayor of Bastrop, who will celebrate his 76th birthday on Oct. 17, isn’t ready to slow down yet. This fall Terry enrolled at UT for a second bachelor’s degree, this time in liberal arts.

“This is not just something I am doing to tread water,” Terry says. “The goal is to be a graduate.”

Terry is currently taking six credit hours in the College of Liberal Arts toward a bachelor’s of arts in classical archaeology. He hopes to use his degree to work as a field archeologist in Greece or other European countries.

It seems to be Terry’s personal mission to disprove the old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

“So you’re old,” Terry says. “That’s good because the alternative is being dead.”

75-year-old Bastrop Mayor enrolls in UTThroughout his career in the offshore equipment business, Terry has traveled all over South America, Central America, and the Middle East. During his travels, he became intrigued with ancient history. This interest, coupled with his mayor term ending in May 2014, led him to UT.

“He said that he wanted to find something to give him a new direction after the mayorship was over,” his wife Patricia says. “I remembered how much he had loved history. We talked it over and in the end, it developed into classical archeology. I am so delighted to see him do this.”

Terry’s age is proving to be far more of an asset than a hindrance among his peers, thanks to his impressive passport.

“He is several decades younger than his age,” says UT art history professor Nassos Papalexandrou. “He brings his experiences [to the classroom] from a long and successful and rich life. But in the classroom, you cannot tell his difference in age.”

Papalexandrou says that the other students listen intently to Terry’s insights during class discussions.

“We all learn from Terry,” Papalexandrou says. “He is eager, intellectually curious, and an asset for the other students. He is the ideal student.”

Terry can also see the value of his age in the classroom.

“Everybody’s brain is 20 years old and mine is 75,” he says. “But I have a perspective that a lot of students don’t necessarily have. I can see significance in what is being presented and have a framework to put it in.”

Terry and Patricia will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary on Jan. 27. Patricia is so enthusiastic about Terry’s endeavor that she has even been sitting in on some of his classes. A retired professor of history, Patricia holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas and both a master’s and PhD from Rice University.

“Nothing stops him,” she says. “He is very much so determined. It’s not as if he is trying to stand out and do everything himself, but he can see beyond to a way that things could be better. He has so many capabilities and interests and does so much for everybody around him.”

Terry’s graduation date isn’t yet determined, but with his willing work ethic, you can expect to be hearing more about this student.

“UT is a fine academic institution and I am fortunate to live close to Austin,” Terry says. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for UT academics and athletics. This opens up a whole new way of life for me.”

Photo courtesy Terry Orr. 


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