After 30 years spent as a human resource manager, Alvin Webre accepted a company buyout and headed off into the sunset of retirement. However, the much slower pace of retirement had Webre looking around for something to fill the too-idle days.
His children were grown and living their own lives. His rescue dog, Cosmo (named for the Seinfeld character Cosmo Kramer), kept him on is toes, but he needed more.
Webre pulled out his college transcript from the University of New Orleans and noticed a pattern.
“I had a lot of accounting courses from UNO,” said Webre, who attended the University of New Orleans for a year in 1978. “I figured I’d just close the gap and get a degree in accounting. I’ll repurpose myself.”
On Friday, Dec. 8—four days shy of his 74th birthday—Webre will be among the hundreds of students participating in the University of New Orleans fall commencement ceremony at the Lakefront Arena.
“I will be graduating—if I pass these last two classes,” Webre said with a laugh. He currently has two As and figures he will be “OK” if he gets a B on his exams.
Webre, who is taking final exams, is set to earn his second bachelor’s degree. He received his first degree in business and finance in 1971 from what was then the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now called the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
After graduation, Webre served in the Air Force for a seven-year stint, a portion of which included flying missions as a navigator aboard a B-52 bomber during the Vietnam War, he said.
“My unit was assigned to U-Tapao, Thailand to fly sorties to north Vietnam, Hanoi and Haiphong,” Webre said. “I have well over 1,500 hours in the air.”
When hearing loss threatened to ground him, Webre opted to leave the military for civilian life. He became a “one-man band” as a regional human resource officer for FedEx based in New Orleans. A decade ago, he took the company buyout and retired at 64.
“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Webre said. “No business meetings. No crisis. No conference calls.”
He has always enjoyed teaching and learning and had taught training courses as part of his HR duties, Webre said.
He decided to enroll at UNO nearly four years ago and has worked hard and studied even harder, Webre said. Part of that drive comes from his military training that instilled a sense of structure and desire for excellence, he said.
The other part comes from a desire to set an example for his five grandchildren who think it is great that “Grandpa is in school” just like they are, Webre said.
“They ask, ‘Grandpa, do you have teachers that make you work a lot?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Do you take tests?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Have you failed any tests?’ I said, ‘Nooo, and I don’t want you failing any tests either!’”
While Webre finds numbers fascinating, his accounting courses became increasingly difficult as he progressed through the degree program, he said.
“Much to my dismay, I found out that as you go along, it gets a lot tougher,” Webre said. “My advice to students is that when you feel discourage, pick yourself up and keep on going, because that’s the only way you’re going to realize success.”
Meanwhile, just as many of his fellow graduates are doing, Webre is considering his next steps.
“Either I take the CPA exam, or I get my master’s degree in tax accounting,” Webre said. “I’d like to get a CPA and go back to work because retirement just isn’t for me. I can’t just sit around the house.”
There is one decision Webre already has made regarding his UNO diploma.
“I’m going to give it to my grandchildren,” Webre said. “So that they can always remind themselves that no matter how old you are, you can always achieve something, and you should never quit.”