Monday, November 13, 2017 - 4:00pm

Not many college freshman are like Joseph Pecoraro, who retired after 26 years working for the New York City Department of Transportation, assigned to The New York City Police Department. Believing he had not yet learned enough in his life, at the age of 79, Pecoraro applied to Mercy College. In his words, “I took a shot.”

It was not only a need to keep busy in retirement drove Pecoraro to enroll in the Class of 2021. His job with the city had sparked an interest in police work and criminal justice. “I started looking around at a few private colleges,” he explained, but was unimpressed by most of their offerings. Then his eye landed on Mercy’s program in Criminal Justice Forensics, which was offered on the Dobbs Ferry campus—about a mile from his home. “Bingo. That was it,” he said.

Pecoraro is already excited by his classes, which he started in the fall. “An admissions counselor told me I might break the record for the oldest Mercy graduate,” he said, referring to a Mercy student who graduated at age 80. “I hope I make it.”

Growing up in a tough neighborhood in the lower South Bronx, Pecoraro said, “I never knew anyone who went to college. No one could afford it.” After high school, he worked in his father’s wine store in Manhattan, “and then I got drafted.” After his discharge from the military, he wasn’t sure where he belonged. An Army buddy who took advantage of the GI bill was able to attend college and become an attorney. “I was a fool,” Pecoraro said. “I thought about it, but I never followed up.”

His union job with the Department of Transportation paid the bills and provided a pension after his retirement in 1998. Never one to remain idle, Pecoraro taught himself computer skills, from Word to Photoshop, and began selling off his collection of 18,000 vinyl records on eBay. “I made $800 profit on the first one, and after that I was hooked,” he said.

What is it like to sit in classrooms with students a quarter his age? “They’ll surround me like I’m the Pied Piper,” he said cheerfully, recalling one summer when he took a typing class at a local high school: “It was all kids, and they all wanted to talk to me.”

As far as adjusting to the demands of being a full-time college student, he mused, “Everyone says to me, ‘you know college is hard, don’t you? It’s a lot of work.’ But I talk to a lot of college graduates, and not one of them has ever said it was easy and no work. So I’m ready for anything.”