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Korean War Vet Earns Degree at Age 85

George Panebianco with family members at graduation celebration
Student & Alumni Stories
George Panebianco (seated) and his family celebrate the completion of his bachelor's degree from MNU.

George Panebianco was unsure he could complete his degree at age 85. Now he is celebrating with his new friends from MNU. 

Dr. Mark Ford, MNU; George Panebianco, Lisa Gaiche and Cori Freeman, MNU.
Dr. Mark Ford and Lisa Gaiche of MNU, George Panebianco, and Cori Freeman, MNU. 


George Panebianco is a former MNU student from the ’80s, who never completed his degree. The 85-year-old Belton, Missouri resident, is a Korean War Veteran who initially planned to earn a degree in Spanish. A few months ago, when thinking about that unfinished business, he called his alma mater to see if it would be possible to complete a degree. Due to health concerns, he is home-bound now and MNU no longer offers the Spanish major. He wondered if there was anything that could be done.

Cori Freeman, advisor in the School of Professional and Graduate Studies (SPGS), took George’s phone call. Hearing his story and his great desire to check the degree off his bucket list, she determined to help him. 

“It was gratifying to see all the offices at MNU come together to help George,” Freeman says. 

Dr. Mark Ford, vice president for strategic expansion, took George’s case to the administration and the academic exceptions committee. George only needed a few credits to complete his degree and Lisa Gaiche, SPGS, helped him track down some lost credits he had earned from another regionally accredited college. 

“Everything came together,” Freeman says. “It was totally a God thing. This man is so excited to be able to complete his degree. It took a lot of people and a lot of processes, but it happened.”

George was awarded his Bachelor of Arts in General Studies. The event at his home today was attended by family and neighbors. George led everyone in what he called “our song,” which is called Holy, Holy, Holy.

George’s children and some of his grandchildren were in attendance and reiterated how thankful they are to MNU, and how happy this has made their loved one.

George and his wife, Helen live in Belton, Missouri, where they attend St. Sabina Catholic Parish.

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This Issue

Summer 2020

This issue features alumni who’ve committed themselves to serving others through healthcare. They comment on work during a pandemic as well as their motivation to serve. We hope you’ll be inspired by these few who represent many.

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