Seven decades in the making, 90-year-old veteran is a college graduate

Published: May. 17, 2014 at 9:07 PM EDT
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Courtesy of Xavier University
Courtesy of Xavier University
Courtesy of Xavier University
Courtesy of Xavier University

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Walter Bunker's lifelong dream has come true. At 90-years-old, the World War II veteran now holds a college degree seven decades in the making.

Bunker graduated from Xavier University on Saturday, receiving a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, cum laude.

"It took me 70 years. I realized back in 1944 if I graduated, I would have to leave home and get a job. I decided to put it off for a little bit," says Bunker.

Before enlisting in World War II, Bunker spent a year in school on a scholarship playing the violin. Once he was honorably discharged, Bunker tried college again before starting to work with his uncle.

"I felt a little embarrassed that I could never say I had a degree," he admits. "I was further put down by all my kids talking about all the degrees they had."

That's when Bunker visited Xavier's Office of the Registrar. The Registrar sent for Bunker's records.

"[They] called me in a week and said, 'Walter, you're very close to earning a degree. You only need two credits.'"

Bunker has never stopped learning. He has a long background in real estate, teaching and writing. That writing has earned him a liberal arts degree after sharing two stories with a professor.

"[That professor] called me and said, 'Walter, you can start sending out invitations to your graduation.'"

A veteran of the War in Iraq, albeit 60 years younger, escorted Bunker. Ryan Hoefer had the privilege of joining Bunker in Saturday's celebration

"This is going to be one of the biggest honors of my life, to take a man of his caliber and help him graduate, and something that means a lot to him," says Hoefer.

"Ryan Hoefer was a wonderful escort," says Bunker. "He's very strong. He has an arm like steal. He was a tremendous help to me through this whole proceeding."

Bunker says he has numerous others to thank throughout the entire process, most notably his wife.

"I owe a great deal to my beautiful lady-wife Martha. She stood behind me through thick and thin, mainly through thick," he says.

Bunker calls Saturday's experience the culmination of his life.

"It's never too late to be what you might have been," says Bunker quoting George Eliot. "So at the age of 90, it's not too late to get a degree."

So what's next for Bunker? The 90-year-old has a lot on his plate. He has three stories that will soon be published. A book is also on the way titled 'Change Happens.' However, Bunker jokes he has other ambitions.

"Now I think I'll have to go out and start looking for a job. I thought, perhaps, I might be a cowboy. I always wanted to do that. To get on my Cayuse with my gal and ride off into the sunset."

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