updated 12/16/2010 6:41:20 PM ET 2010-12-16T23:41:20

A South Carolina retiree is doing his part to help California close its massive budget deficit.

More than four decades after Dennis Ferguson received unemployment benefits from the state, he wrote a $10,000 check to the treasury to pay back the money, plus interest.

Ferguson said he collected about $1,100 over about four months in 1964 after he was laid off from Douglas Aircraft in Southern California, where he worked as an engineer.

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He said the benefits helped him to go back to school and study computer programming at a school that had one computer for 10 students. He said he wanted to show his appreciation by adding "interest" to his repayment and thought $10,000 was a "nice round figure."

"This allowed me to have a great career, and I've been ever thankful," Ferguson wrote in a note enclosed with his Nov. 23 check. "Please find enclosed a check for $10,000 as a repayment. Happy Thanksgiving!"

Officials say Ferguson didn't designate a specific recipient, so the money will go toward public schools as required by state law.

"On behalf of Californians, I want to express our deepest appreciation to Mr. Ferguson," said State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. "I hope that as we work together to meet our budget challenges, we keep in mind his act of generosity, and the spirit it embodies."

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