While you may often hear the saying “It’s never too late,” 86-year-old student Don Felipe Espinosa Tecuapetla proves it.

The former produce vendor from Puebla, Mexico became the oldest student registered at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla back in 2016 when he was 79. His time at BUAP changed his life, telling the university last month: “I started working as a young child, but this is the start of a new life.”

After defending his thesis at BUAP, Tecuapetla graduated with a hard-earned Processes and Industrial Management Engineering degree.

BUAP’s president, Dr. Lilia Cedillo Ramírez, posted when Tecuapetla received his degree on her TikTok. She wrote, “Don Felipe received his university degree! At 86 years old, he has served as an example for everyone.”


¡Don Felipe recibió su título universitario! Con 86 años, ha sido ejemplo para todos y hoy concluye una etapa más en su educación profesional. #BUAP Estamos muy orgullosos de él. ¡Mucho éxito! #LiliaCedillo #2023 #universidad #titulación #Puebla #ejemploaseguir

♬ New Abundance – Omar Enfedaque

In the adorable video, you can see Tecuapetla ring a congratulatory bell as he holds his diploma, posing for photos in his graduation cap. “We are very proud of him,” the video states.

Tecuapetla is a widower who worked selling produce while studying engineering

As per the university graduate’s interview with Zenger, Tecuapetla is a widower with five children, 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

He explained to BUAP that he has lived alone since his wife died 20 years ago. However, once he began studying in 2016, he began to feel less lonely.

“I’m not alone anymore, they greet me everywhere [at university],” he explained.

Incredibly enough, Tecuapetla began studying engineering at BUAP at around the same time his granddaughter began her studies in accounting there. Even more, he was motivated by his eldest son, who is also an engineer.

As you can expect, the 86-year-old graduate inspires his entire family. His granddaughter, Erika Pozos Espinosa, described to Zenger: “I am very fortunate to have such a living example. I don’t think anyone else has a grandfather who graduated from college at that age. He’s a source of inspiration.”

“It seems incredible to me that at his age, he doesn’t want to waste a single moment of his life,” she added.

Still, her abuelito’s journey has been far from easy. As per his interview with BUAP in 2021, the Puebla native has worked all kinds of jobs throughout his life— including construction, fieldwork, and enlisting in the army.


Conoce a Don Felipe el estudiante universitario de 86 años que por fin obtuvo su título profesional en la #BUAP #historiadevida #Puebla #noticiasPuebla

♬ Get You The Moon – Kina

Tecuapetla also worked selling produce like onions, chiles, and lemons in markets in Tepeaca and Cholula. In fact, as per BUAP, he still worked in the markets throughout his years studying engineering.

The vendor explains that he woke up every day at 4:30 AM to attend classes, taking two buses and traveling up to two hours back and forth.

“Nothing will stop me… only death,” he told his alma mater. “Studying is incredible: you study for self-improvement, for a better life.”

BUAP teachers said Tecuapetla was the first person to arrive on campus and the last to leave

The 86-year-old told Univision that his prior knowledge in math helped him obtain his engineering degree. Interestingly, his math skills came from selling produce.

“Before, oranges weren’t sold by the kilo, they were sold by the count,” he explained. “A box of oranges included 144 oranges, half a box 72, a fourth 36, and half of that, 18. I had all those numbers in my head, that’s why it was easier for me.”

When he attended BUAP, he realized he was the oldest student. “I thought there were older people at the university. But I was the only one.”

Still, his studies were an incredible time for him and he excelled. He told Zenger, “It was easy for me: I wanted to study; I am a patient person, and I pay attention.”

BUAP professor Héctor Medina Cruz also told the outlet that the 86-year-old preferred to take notes using paper and pen— and was the first person to arrive on campus and the last to leave.

As the graduate told his university, “self-improvement” was his driving force. Eventually, he found his rhythm— even when it came to learning new technology. “Overcoming anything is all in the mind, the mind is an incredible thing.”

“What stops me? I hear well, see well, reason well.”

Fast-forward to today and Tecuapetla has officially obtained his Processes and Industrial Management Engineering degree from BUAP after defending his thesis. The university released a statement describing how his granddaughters accompanied him at graduation.

“[His granddaughters] proudly recognize that they obtained the best example of perseverance from Don Felipe Espinosa,” it reads.

Meanwhile, the 86-year-old said at the ceremony, “I have worked without studies… But it’s not the same anymore. Now I have my degree, it’s different now.”