Locksley McDermott graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at 44 years old in 1982. Though the 73-year-old North Philadelphian studied economics at Penn, it was economics that set him back as a teenager growing up in Jamaica.
“My father and mother couldn’t pay for high school,” McDermott said standing at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue after a stop at the Fresh Grocer.
“I passed the examinations to get in, but it didn’t help,” he added. “There were prejudices, and [my family] did not have the economic strength to do it.”
Instead, McDermott focused on a trade he began learning at age 12: tailoring. From dressmaking to suits to neckties, McDermott said he began to establish himself as he maintained jobs at a post office and fire department in Jamaica.
Eventually, in 1969, McDermott’s friend recommended him for a tailoring job in the United States. Working as a tailor for Philadelphia’s luxury clothing store Boyds – which was founded the same year McDermott was born in 1938 – McDermott saw opportunity in the U.S.
After attending a Benjamin Franklin night school program, McDermott eventually earned his General Educational Development degree and went on to study at the Wharton School at Penn. Last month, he finally retired from accounting.
But despite setbacks in school as a child, McDermott is pleased with the outcome.
“I have nothing to complain about,” he said with a gap-toothed smile.
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.