By: Alana Flinn
68 year-old veteran John Steine came back to school because he just wants to learn
Sitting in a World War II class full of people, some as young as 18, John Steine stands out among the crowd. With a camouflage hat much like other students, Steine’s vintage military cap belongs to a man who wore the green and brown colors during the Vietnam War. Skin weathered with age, palms callused from hard work, Steine’s eyes still sparkle bright, holding the secrets of a 68 year-long life.
Steine, originally from Mission, is currently attending the University as a non-degree seeking student. His tuition is free, due to University policy that such a student can have their tuition waived if he audits six hours per semester.
“I’m just recently retired and decided I can’t sleep half the day and watch TV half the day,” Steine said.
Once Steine learned of his ability to take classes for no cost, he was excited to return to the University he graduated from in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
“I enjoy reading and I enjoy history,” Steine said. “I just wanted to take some courses and at this point, I don’t have to worry about speaking my mind or what I think about something because it won’t impact a grade. I don’t have to be afraid to say something. I just want to learn.”
Steine is currently taking History 340, the History of World War II, from professor Adrian Lewis. Steine chose to take the class because the time period is a personal interest for him that he’s read about extensively.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming in because this is the first class I’ve taken from Lewis,” Steine said. “I’m enjoying that he teaches things from different points of view so you learn the strengths and weaknesses in arguments.”
Steine’s passion for history can be traced back to his love for reading.
“I like to read a lot. Of the fiction I like, I like historical fiction so that has taken me into history books and times that I enjoy reading,” Steine said. “I guess that was it. It certainly wasn’t from classes or anything. I’ve just always been a reader.”
Steine’s love for history also stems from the fact that he has lived through it. From 1968 to 1976, Steine served with the U.S. Marine Corps as an administration specialist, serving in the Vietnam War.
“I worked in the air unit and my job was tracking aircrafts, the ones in service as they were going out of service and things that would make them unavailable to fly. I later worked in training,” Steine said. “Being a Marine definitely changed a lot of my life in terms of learning that you can do anything you set your mind to do.”
Once Steine retired from the military, he and and his wife moved for Steine’s career as an IT consultant, which required him to travel frequently.
One of the locations he traveled to was Paris, which influenced Steine to take a class on the subject last semester.
“I took a great class last semester from Van Kelly, the History of Paris, which is something I love because in my working history, I had customers in Paris,” Steine said. “Of course, all of the historical sites that you see pictures of and read about, to actually visit them and get to experience it firsthand was special to me. And the class was fabulous.”
When it was time for Steine and his wife to retire, they both decided they wanted to move back to Lawrence.
“I think Lawrence was our choice because of the University,” Steine said. “Our daughter went to school here and we had been back for many of her vocal performances and decided in doing that there were a lot of things we enjoyed about Lawrence so we decided it’d be the place we wanted to retire.”
Steine doesn’t know which classes he will choose to take in the future, but he is willing to study subjects beyond history.
“I haven’t picked a class for this [spring] semester,” Steine said. “The first three have been history, so why don’t I look at something from the business school or a different era, I don’t know yet.”
What Steine does know is he will undoubtedly continue to audit classes with the University.
“I want to do something that challenges me,” Steine said. “I have a fabulous university in my backyard and when I found out I could audit classes, it became natural for me.”
— Edited by Kelsi Kirwin