Alice Thomas is set to make history May 15 when she dons cap and gown and accepts her law degree in Sacramento, Calif. At 79, Thomas is the oldest graduate of the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
“Younger students asked whether I was serious about studying law,” says Thomas, who’s currently studying for the California bar and plans to practice elder law. “I told them that if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have spent all that money for tuition and law books!”
Her law degree is another milestone on what Thomas characterizes as “a fairly nontraditional path.” After leaving home at 16, followed by an unhappy 16-year marriage, the Arizona native put herself through college, became a prosperous real estate executive, and then a paralegal.
Part of the reason she attended law school was disgust over media portrayals of older adults as “doddering fools.” A man she calls “the love of my life and my soul mate” passed away while Thomas was in law school. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, an issue Thomas intends to address in her practice.
Blair S. Walker, who frequently writes for the Bulletin’s In the News section, lives in Miami.