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Don Nelson thought he’d graduate from college when he left his small Illinois high school and headed for the University of Iowa. He figured he’d major in physical education and become a coach. Four seasons, two All-American awards and a ticket to join the Chicago Zephyrs later, he decided to leave Iowa City eight Spanish credits and a student teaching requirement short of earning his degree.
During the late 60s and early 70s, Nelson played for the Celtics and helped the team win five NBA championships. While in Boston, he knocked off four of his Spanish credits. High profile coaching stints and tenures as a general manager followed. During his time leading the Golden State Warriors, Nelson completed the final four Spanish credit hours he needed, but he was never able to get enough time off to complete his student teaching requirement.
Fifty years later, the University of Iowa finally decided to count all the seventy-one-year-old’s years of coaching as the teaching requirement he needed. Officials made their decision a few months ago and informed a euphoric Nelson that he could walk alongside his fellow graduates in the ceremony this week.
According to ESPN, Nelson called the degree a testament that dreams can come true. I’d have to agree. I’m all for making people complete the work it takes to properly earn a degree, but sometimes common sense is needed for a university to realize what the goal of student teaching really is.
Pop Blend’s sincerest congratulations go out to Nelson, as well as the thousands of others who finished their own degrees at the University of Iowa this week.