updated 05/19/2014 AT 4:45 PM ET
•originally published 05/19/2014 AT 2:30 PM ET
In the 1940s, Walter Bunker was, like many other college students, unsure of what kind of future he wanted for himself. Bunker was attending Cincinnati’s Xavier University on a violin scholarship, but the prospect of graduating filled him with dread.
“So I decided to put it off for a little bit,” he told FOX19. “And that became 70 years.”
In the seven decades since he dropped out, Bunker flew as a bombardier in World War II, worked in real estate, survived lung cancer and saw his children and one grandchild attend Xavier. Inspired by their example, he decided to finish what he’d started all those years ago.
After meeting with the college registrar, Bunker learned that credits from his Air Force career left him only two shy of graduating. A lifelong writer, he shared two stories he’d penned with a Xavier literature professor, and just like that, he’d earned his cap and gown.
Escorted by fellow graduate Ryan Hoefer, an Iraq War vet, Bunker finally graduated from Xavier on Saturday with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree.
“This is the culmination of my life,” he told reporters after the ceremony. He thanked his wife for sticking with him through “thick and thin – mostly thick” and praised Hoefer’s “arms of steel” for getting him through the ceremony.
There was one downside, though.
“Now I guess I’ll have to go out and start looking for a job,” he joked.