News Detail
Walter Bunker (left) with Ryan Hoefer. Both are veterans graduating from Xavier University on May 17.
“I was thinking, I am getting older by degrees, so why don’t I get a degree?”
— Walter Bunker, Xavier University Class of 2014
90-Year-Old World War II Veteran Graduating with Xavier University Class of 2014

May 14, 2014 — Seventy years after Walter Bunker began working on his undergraduate degree, the 90-year-old World War II veteran will finally walk across the Xavier University stage at graduation with the class of 2014.

Crossing the stage for Bunker, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with cum laude honors, will be no easy task. Recently, Bunker did a walk-through of his commencement procession with his escort, Ryan Hoefer, an Iraq War veteran who is also graduating this May. It was strenuous for Bunker, who was out of breath due to a lung cancer diagnosis last October and his 13 subsequent radiation treatments. However, neither the cancer nor the seven-decade period between Bunker’s enrollment and his graduation have stopped him.

He began in 1941 when he attended the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a scholarship in violin. But with World War II escalating, Bunker left school and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp. In 1944, Bunker received an honorary medical discharge and enrolled at Xavier to resume his college career. He transferred to Notre Dame to attend school there with a friend after a year, but returned to Xavier in 1946 only to withdraw again for medical reasons the next year. For the next several decades, Bunker attended Xavier part-time, slowly gaining college credits while working for his uncle’s real estate agency.

Bunker, now with 10 children of his own who have college degrees, says he’s been feeling a little out of place. “My son can say, ‘I have a master’s degree from Purdue.’ My daughter in-law, ‘I have a master’s from Xavier,’ and my niece just got her master’s degree from North Carolina,” Bunker said. “I was thinking, I am getting older by degrees, so why don’t I get a degree?”

Last August, Bunker called Xavier and related his story to the Office of the Registrar. After collecting his transcripts, the office found that Bunker was just two credits away from his degree. When the office discovered he also had 47 credits from wartime service, Bunker was cleared to receive his diploma.

Seventy years after the start of his journey, Bunker will now walk across the stage with the Class of 2014 and shake hands with Xavier’s president, Jesuit Father Michael J. Graham. And he will get his degree. When asked what he wants to do with it, Bunker replied, “I want to be a cowboy.” [Source: Xavier University]



Recent News

September 29, 2016 — The Jesuit life of Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who intends to resign next month when the Jesuits gather for General Congregation 36.

September 26, 2016 — Two years after Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey, opened a center for undocumented students, it continues to be a place of harbor and hope.

September 23, 2016 — Thirty Catholic high schools throughout the world are taking part in the Ignatian Carbon Challenge, which is working to raise environmental awareness.

September 21, 2016 — This fall, 47 new Jesuit novices joined the Society of Jesus in Canada, Haiti and the U.S., the largest group of novices in the last 10 years.

September 21, 2016 — Jesuit Father Ante Gabric, a Croatian missionary who at times worked alongside Mother Teresa, is a candidate for sainthood.

September 19, 2016 — Fr. Fitzgerald died Sept. 17. He stepped down as president of Jesuit High in New Orleans in 2014, after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease.

September 16, 2016 — Tomorrow is the feast day of Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), a Jesuit who was one of the most important cardinals of the Catholic Reformation.

view all news

Search news

Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 9/19/16

America 9/12/16

America 8/29/16



Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland
Nestled in the urban landscape of Parma, Ohio, the Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland is “a place of peace in the forest.”