"Old" is a relative term in Florida, where billboards advertise dentures made in a day and the early bird dinner specials start at 4. So it is understandable that hardly anyone raised an eyebrow when Joe Feigenbaum walked into his first class at the Nova Southeastern University business school in Fort Lauderdale.

Feigenbaum had done lots of things in his life: earned a law degree, built a career in textiles, run a factory in Venezuela. But it wasn't until he was in his mid-seventies -- and bored out of his mind with retirement -- that he got the idea of studying for a doctorate in international business. His classmates, many of whom were mid-career types in their forties and fifties, took him right in.

"They didn't look at me as a geezer," he said.

His wife, Cherie, mindful of his golden-years restlessness, didn't stand in the way, either. In retrospect, Feigenbaum wonders if she might have had an ulterior motive.

"Maybe she wanted to get me out of the house," he said.

Feigenbaum didn't rush through Nova. He spent eight years taking classes, even enduring the headache of having to change dissertation topics.

But now Feigenbaum, who says he is not 84 but 841/2, has what he wanted: a doctoral degree, to be awarded on Father's Day, no less.

The question is, what the heck will he do with it? He was going to do some consulting in Venezuela. But political instability and sagging textile prospects there made him wary. With his degree in hand, he figures he is at least well qualified to write a book.

"I'll have to stay alive," he said, "until I've finished it."

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Joe Feigenbaum, who gives his age as 841/2, gets an assist from his wife, Cherie, as he tries on his graduation cap and gown.