The class of 2000’s Tom White took a non-traditional route to law school. Tom was born in 1940 in a small town in Alabama. He attended the University of Alabama and graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He went on to earn a Masters degree in Industrial Administration from Purdue University. After graduation, Tom entered the United States Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer.
After three years in the Air Force, Tom began a long career with Procter & Gamble. “As was the custom at P&G at the time,” he said, “I had the opportunity to work in multiple areas of the business, as well as in several different locations.” Following a 30-year career which he describes as “wonderful,” Tom retired in 1995.
Retirement didn’t last long. “It quickly became apparent that full time retirement didn’t fit me very well,” he explained. One of his daughters happened to be starting law school in Colorado at the time, and she suggested that he apply to law school. Tom took her suggestion, and applied to the College of Law. “At the time, I saw this primarily as a learning experience, and I had no real plan for a legal career,” he said.
Attending law school after thirty years in another career posed several challenges. “Frankly,” Tom said, “I was worried about whether I would even be accepted to the law school at the age of 57.” He was admitted, but obstacles remained. Although Tom discovered the time spent with much younger classmates to be a “special benefit,” he found his law studies to be difficult after last attending school 35 years earlier. According to Tom, “I probably had to spend more time studying than many students,” but he became a member of Law Review, graduated, and passed the bar at age 60.
Following graduation, Tom began working for the Hamilton County Public Defender in the Juvenile Division. “This work of defending young people, many of whom are substantially disadvantaged in one way or another, has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” says Tom. Although his original objective was only to learn about law, he finds himself still representing young people ten years after graduation. “The work is still challenging and I still enjoy it,” he said. “I remain indebted to the College of Law for the opportunity my legal education has provided.”
Tom and his wife, Amanda, were married just a few weeks after he graduated from the University of Alabama, and they are celebrating their 49th year together. The two have three children and four grandchildren, spread around the country in Chicago, Boulder and San Francisco. Despite the distance, the family remains close, vacationing together several times a year.