GGU News
Military family
November 13, 2020 |

Military Family Attends GGU Together

When Thomas Johnson enrolled in law school, he didn’t imagine that his parents would join him. But when his parents enrolled in the MS Leadership program, GGU turned out to be a win-win for the entire family.

By Jenny McKeel

When John and Vicky Johnson retired from the Air Force Reserves in their 50s, the couple wanted to use the G.I. Bill to pursue an MS Leadership degree so that they could then give back to the military sector. At the time, their son, Thomas, was applying to law school programs. As it turned out, GGU was the best option for the entire family.

“Thomas wasn’t too keen on the arrangement at first,” joked Vicky.

It was when Thomas accepted a scholarship at GGU Law that Vicky and John grew interested in GGU’s MS Leadership program for its innovative curriculum and affordable price. They bought a house in Concord, where the whole family could live while enrolled at GGU.

MS in Leadership

During Vicky and John’s first year in the MS Leadership program, Vicky began serving as a Veteran Ambassador, helping other veterans make connections and discover opportunities.

“That’s when the rubber hit the road,” Vicky recalled. “Because I was visible in the Veterans Student Lounge, I got to know Thomas’ friends. It was awkward for Thomas at first. It’s kind of like going to law school with your kid.”

Thomas was grateful to have a place to live and help with meal prep and commuting into the city. Nonetheless, there were downsides.

“If your parents are at the same school,” explained Thomas, “it’s inevitable that they will bump into your classmates. You don’t know what your parents are going to say and what your classmates are going to say to your parents.”

Family Planning

Still, GGU made good financial sense for the Johnsons.

“But ideally I did not assume I would be living at my parents’ house at the age of 25,” quipped Thomas. “Usually when you go away to school, your parents are not in tow.”

For Vicky and John, going back to school together has allowed them to grow closer in retirement while learning new skills.

“We do homework together,” said Vicky. “And sometimes we are paired up as partners in classes. It’s helpful to be in the same classes because he knows what I’m talking about and vice-versa.”

They have had to negotiate personality differences: John is less talkative than Vicky, who likes to chat with people in the building before leaving for the day.

The Value of Higher Education

One thing Vicky and John agree on is the value of higher education in retirement.

“I’ve enjoyed every class we’ve taken,” commented John. “We’ve studied different organizational structures and it’s amazing that every one we’ve studied applies to my career.”

In their capstone class, every student—and even the professor—was a veteran, a unique opportunity for the Johnsons. When they graduate, John and Vicky plan to enroll in the MS Financial Planning program. Their ultimate goal is to use their new skills to help guide young people into careers in the military or aviation industry. John hopes they can offer free financial planning to military bases.

“When we retired, we owned multiple homes,” said John. “For me it was a travesty to see other vets retire and it was the first time they owned a home and they have to find another career to pay the mortgage. We’d like to help people avoid that.”

Commitment to Public Interest

For Thomas, GGU is a great fit because he always wanted to work in public interest law.

“They are my parents so some of the values have crept over,” he said, with a laugh. “Because I’m graduating with almost no debt, I will be able to focus on helping others without worrying about my paycheck.”

Whereas his parents want to serve others in the military, Thomas wants to help the public and also animals in need. Outside of classes, he’s active with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Growing up with pets, he always felt a connection with animals. His family volunteered with pet rescue organizations that placed abandoned animals in homes or with organizations like the ASPCA.

“Animals need help,” said Thomas. “And they don’t get legal representation. There aren’t a lot of lawyers working in this area. If we can get students interested in helping out, there may be new solutions to be found for animal welfare.”


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