New graduate on the block: local 74-year-old CEO finally gets his college diploma

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-“First off I’m going to meet all the other graduates. I’m three times the age of everybody in that room and they’re like what are you doing here and I’m like I’m graduating!” said Layne. 

In the 1960s, he moved to Bowling Green to work for SKF in Glasgow. They also paid for him to go to school at Western Kentucky University.

“Studied in the evening, and worked during the daytime,” said Layne. 

But he dropped out just six hours short of a diploma to start his own construction business. 

“It just started kind of snowballing from there. As business grows it just sucks you into it, you can’t turn work down you’ve been trying to get. The thing that dropped out of my life was finishing college,” said Layne. 

His hard work and entrepreneurship skills eventually lead him to start another business, SpanTech. 

The multi-million dollar conveyor belt company now has offices locally in Glasgow, and worldwide- Canada, Mexico, Japan and Holland. 

“There’s a good chance in the next month you will eat a product or take some medicine that came off a conveyor that SpanTech built,” said Layne’s friend and WKU engineering professor Joel Lenoir. 

Staff from WKU visited SpanTech one day and they were talking about the school. 

“We got into some conversation and I said I never did graduate and they said ‘what?’ So we went back and they said we’re gonna give you a degree,” said Layne. 

Lenoir helped him get ready for his big day. 

“He had been out of town, he didn’t come into town till the night before, we made sure his regalia was all picked up, everything was ironed and ready to go and I was so happy to see him walk in on graduation morning,” said Lenoir. 

The university finally handed him a college diploma- a moment and gesture from WKU he will never forget. 

“It is very nice and I’ll remember it for a long time,” said Layne.