A man in Dallas could very well just sit back and relax at home and enjoy the fruits of his retirement, but he says doing nothing will simply drive him nuts. And so, when a new law school opened in downtown Dallas while he was well into his late 60s, he saw that as another opportunity to be productive and to continue growing as an individual. Fast forward to more than four years later, and today at 71, he became the oldest graduate in the inaugural law class.
John VanBuskirk added a new feather to his cap at 71, so to speak, as a law graduate from UNT Dallas College of Law. He also achieved that with flying colors, finishing with a 3.21 GPA, and making the Dean’s List four times.
What’s even more commendable to an already incredible feat for someone his age is that he also managed to log 800 hours of pro bono work, volunteering at clinics with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and pro bono clinics through the law school. In fact, he just earned two statewide awards for his pro bono work.
Prior to law school, VanBuskirk can already lay claim to an accomplished career. He dedicated 25 years of service in the Army, where he retired at the rank of major. He spent two stints in the military and has been to two wars- first as a medical helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and then returning to service as an officer at a U.S. hospital in Germany during the Iraq war in 2006.
He also had his share of some little failures in life, if it can be called as such. He has always had an interest in the legal profession. When he was still with the military, VanBuskirk had the chance to join the Judge Advocate General (JAG) legal program but he didn’t meet the requirements. That is why he saw the inaugural UNT Dallas law program as his second opportunity to get another crack at his “legal dream.”
VanBuskirk’s wife initially told him that “You’re not getting any younger” but he remained unperturbed, and to make his dream work he kept a focused, disciplined tight schedule, waking up as early as 3 a.m. to study, attend his classes, and dedicate hours to his volunteer work.
He thanks his Army background for his ability and compatibility to follow a regimented schedule. He shares: “I’ve got zero problem with getting up at 3 o’ clock in the morning, studying for 2-3 hours, getting another hour of sleep, then getting up for the day and going at it.”
The beautiful thing is it was not just a packed schedule for the former military man, but meaningful, productive work with pro bono clinics, too. His 800 hours of volunteer work is considered even by practitioners as an “incredible” thing.
He also found out last month that he passed the bar, making him officially a lawyer. The first thing that he did upon learning the good news is to go to more clinics and find out how else he can contribute and help people in need of legal services.