Daniel Solomon hadn’t planned on becoming one of the oldest people ever to earn a doctorate in math. After leaving Rutgers University–Camden with a bachelor’s degree in math in the 1970s, Solomon CCAS’76 headed straight to graduate school. But five years later, discouraged by the dim job prospects in academia, he quit to launch a career that eventually took him to NASA.

Over the years, Solomon worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, the GPS technology used in cell phones, and the Phoenix mission to Mars. But his unfinished doctorate was a niggling regret. “It was always in the back of my mind,” Solomon says. In January 2005, he decided to try again, enrolling in the graduate math program at West Virginia University. For more than a decade, he divided his time among work, family responsibilities, and research on celestial mechanics, which deals with the motion of astronomical objects. Along the way, he published four papers, including one in the well-regarded Journal of Differential Equations.

When he finally earned his doctorate in November 2017, Solomon dedicated his dissertation, in part, to his three now-adult children, “without whom this would have been finished much faster.” Solomon’s degree was conferred three weeks before his 64th birthday; his online sleuthing suggests that only an 80-year-old man in India has earned a doctorate in math at a more advanced age.

Solomon’s NASA colleagues toasted his accomplishment with champagne, but he says the doctorate won’t change his life much, unless he pursues a postretirement career in academia. Mostly, he’s won “the satisfaction of a lifelong dream,” he says. “I’ve got to go change my nameplate to say ‘Dr.’ ”