Graduating from university — 36 years after I started

I walked into my first math lecture in 1984. Finishing my degree decades later gave me the opportunity to study with the smartest, most welcoming group of people to ever grace this planet.

I was accepted into a Waterloo math program back in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, I was far too immature to be successful. I lasted a few terms but eventually I had “required to withdraw” on my transcript.

Over the decades, I settled in Waterloo Region, got married, had a family and built a career. Despite not completing my degree, I always felt it was an important milestone. I maintained that when I retired, I would finish my degree.

Working in the yard one day I realized there was no reason to defer it any longer. I wasn’t sure I would be able to complete a degree in retirement, and my career allowed me the flexibility to attend classes.

So at the age of 51, I re-applied to math at Waterloo.

On my first day, I was fortunate to meet undergraduate advisor Alice Pfeifer-Hanov (BA ’06). When she asked everyone if they had their form, I stuck my hand up and queried, “Form? There’s a form?” Alice took me under her wing from that point forward. Without her guidance and support, along with other staff and faculty, I likely wouldn’t have been successful.

Glenn and friends Glenn poses with friends in the Math and Computer building in 1984. He is second from the right.


GLenn Cooke headshotDespite the age difference, my classmates were friendly and welcoming. The current generation of students are the smartest, most welcoming group of people to ever grace this planet. The next 20 years is going to be an exciting time as they move out into the workforce and start to make changes in society.

Some new connections revolutionized my career. A professor who frequently mentors entrepreneurial students helped me shape a business idea which led to my being accepted to the Accelerator Centre, an incubator just north of campus. Thanks to the infrastructure, mentorship and overall ecosystem, I launched my venture, an online life insurance company, far more successfully than I could have on my own.

Surprisingly, a sense of accomplishment wasn’t my main takeaway when I graduated in 2020. Instead, I have a sense of closure for something that’s been unfinished for far too long.

Today, every time I pass the campus entrance, I point at the signs and proudly say, “I went to school there!”