At Age 77, Retired Businessman and Proud Grandpa Graduates WP with Bachelor’s Degree

Jim Schwarz ’24 is a health studies major with a 3.94 grade point average. He enjoys taking classes both in person and online, is active in student clubs and civic engagement activities, holds down a work-study job, and proudly wears his WP attire.

At 77 years old, Schwarz also has the distinction of being the eldest member of William Paterson University’s Class of 2024.

Schwarz was inspired to pursue a bachelor’s degree in health studies—which focuses on the study of human health, wellness, illness, and disease—after his wife of 48 years, Linda, survived and recovered from not one, but two major medical issues. 

Schwarz already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oregon State University in 1969, and after a very successful career in sales with the likes of Oscar Meyer, Keebler, and Quaker Oats, he retired from an international food import company at age 70 as regional US sales manager for the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

“I love it here,” Schwarz says of WP, speaking highly of his professors and classmates. “It’s fun; it’s really exciting, and it really keeps you young,” he adds, in discussing how he’s looking forward to the Student Government leadership awards and Senior Send-Off celebration.

“I get along with everybody in class, and usually they call me ‘sir’ or refer to me as the ‘old guy,’ and that’s great. I love that,” Schwarz says with a chuckle. “Seventy-seven is a number that doesn’t mean anything, to me; it doesn’t. It just means I’ve been around that long.”

A US Army Veteran who had been deployed to Frankfurt, Germany to protect the country’s border during the Cold War, Schwarz earned an Army Commendation Medal for his later work as an Order of Battle clerk, where he was responsible for managing security clearances and rosters for the battalion. 

He is a proud father to three sons and one daughter, and an even prouder grandfather to six grandchildren who range in age from 3 to 10.

“My kids and grandkids love it,” Schwarz says of his return to school. “They tease me about it quite a bit.” 

When he’s not on campus, Schwarz loves babysitting his grandchildren and attending their sports games. He also handles the cooking and laundry at home.

For others of his generation who are retired and contemplating a return to their studies, Schwarz says: “Do it, and enjoy it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re not tech-savvy. We have a wonderful computer lab here, we have a wonderful Writing Center, and if you want to learn more about something, the students will bend over backwards to help you.”

Schwarz hopes to continue his studies in WP’s School of Nursing so that he can fill in for the nurse that works at Inspire Sports Camp, where he has volunteered for the past 13 years. His son is founder and executive director of the camp, which provides a free summer camp experience to hundreds of underserved children every year, and Schwarz simply “wants to help him out.” 

“I’ll do anything for my family,” he adds.