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Yale’s Most Interesting Law Student Doesn’t Have to Take Any Finals or Study
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Yale’s Most Interesting Law Student Doesn’t Have to Take Any Finals or Study

Summary: Harold Kent is a 93-year-old World War II veteran who keeps his mind sharp by attending law school classes at Yale.

Harold Kent is not your typical Yale Law student. For starters, he’s 93 years old. He’s auditing classes at the law school with students who could easily be his grandchildren or great-grand children. According to NHRegister.com (The New Haven Register), no student has ever audited courses at Yale before, but that didn’t faze Kent.

  
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Kent strolled into the dean’s office one day three years ago and told the secretary, “I’m 90 years old and I’d like five minutes with the dean.” Kent was working at Levey Miller Maretz as a real estate specialist at the time and decided he wanted to do something new.

Kent met with the dean and told him his story. The dean said, “We’ve never allowed auditing at the law school. I’ll have to think about it.” Two days later, Kent received a phone call from the dean. “I’ll authorize it,” the dean said. “But for each course you take, the professor must OK it.”

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The New Haven Register added that luckily, no professor has ever turned Kent down from a class. He’s taken Sports Law, Media and the Law, Local Government and Capital Punishment, Criminal Law, and Convicting the Innocent. This semester, he’s enrolled in U.S. Foreign Policy and the Law and Criminal Procedure. Since he’s auditing the course, he doesn’t have to take exams. “I just predominantly listen. And I read the books,” Kent told the New Haven Register.

Kent enthusiastically added that his coursework at Yale has been good for his mental health: “It’s been absolutely a wonderful experience, to keep my mind working. That’s the most important thing: You don’t become stagnant.”

According to Kent, his much younger classmates are friendly and welcoming. “They could not be nicer. They have accepted me as a fellow student. I will say that when I sit down on the first day of class people wonder, ‘What is this older man doing, sitting here?’”

After he finishes his third year, Kent is considering continuing his courses at Yale, so long as he remains active. Kent was quick to clarify, “But I’m a very active guy. I could never just hang around, go home to retire. That’s not for me,” he told the New Haven Register.

Gloria, Kent’s wife, was not surprised that Kent was auditing courses, but “couldn’t get over” the fact that he was attending classes at Yale. However, it’s not that unusual that Kent would choose Yale to attend, since he’s been an avid fan of Yale football for most of his life—he says he hasn’t missed a home game in 50 years, with one exception: “…unless it was raining. I don’t sit out there in the rain.”

Kent’s favorite course was Convicting the Innocent. Kent remembered, “Oh, that’s a funny story. I asked the professor (Steven B. Duke) if he’d ever had Bill or Hillary (Clinton) and he said ‘Yes.’ So I dropped a note to Hillary, telling her I was taking ‘Convicting the Innocent’ and that I found it exhilarating. She wrote me back, saying how much she enjoyed it and she couldn’t get over the fact that at 93 I was at the law school.”

Kent, as a young man, had always planned to go to law school. However, World War II interrupted his plans. “I had six credits left to graduate (undergraduate) when I got pulled into the Infantry. I spent 2 ½ years in the Army and ended up at the Battle of the Bulge,” Kent said. During his service, he was under General George Patton. “I remember it was the middle of winter and Patton was reviewing us in Belgium. We had to stand at attention in the snow. Would you believe he was looking at our shoes to make sure they were in good condition?”

Kent never spoke to Patton, however. “Oh no, you wouldn’t dare open your mouth! He wouldn’t talk to anybody. But he was some general,” he informed the New Haven Register.

When asked about the Battle of the Bulge, Kent recalled, “The Germans had us surrounded. Then, after we retreated and got to our position, we decided to advance. We lost a lot of men.” Kent mainly remembers “shooting from a foxhole for a solid week. We finally got through and defeated their division. And then we went into Germany.”

Miraculously, Kent was not even injured during the battle. He said, “The Battle of the Bulge has never left my mind. You can’t forget something like that.”

Once the war ended, Kent wasn’t ready to go back to school. “I had been through so much that going back to school for three years was the farthest thing from my mind.”

Kent continued his story to the reporters at the New Haven Register. After the war, he returned to New Haven and took over his father’s formalwear business. He renamed the store the Ascot Formal Shop and had quite the clientele: “I outfitted some of the leading political figures and the stars at the Shubert, including George C. Scott. One day I outfitted the first George Bush. He was not yet president. He came over to New Haven to make a speech and he forgot his tuxedo. He was in a big black limo with New York plates. I had no idea who he was. When I told him he couldn’t take an out-of-state check, he showed me his ID: He was the head of the CIA.”

Obviously, Bush got his tux for his speech.

Kent also stated, “Yale President Bart Giamatti was a very good customer. One day he asked, ‘Harold, would you do me a big favor? My son (Paul, later a famous actor), has never had a date and he’s going to his prom. He’s a slob, he doesn’t care about his clothing. Please make him look good.” The prom was a success.

After thirty-five years in the business, Kent decided to sell it. The next day, he had a job offer from Levey Miller Maretz: “They said, ‘You’ve just sold your business. Why not come with us and start a new department, Business Opportunities?’”

Since Kent “has to be busy,” he decided to give it a shot, and remains there part-time. In addition to his Yale coursework and his job with Levey Miller Maretz, Kent also swims and walks around his neighborhood. “A person that reaches a certain age tends to be sedentary. But that’s not me,” he proudly told the New Haven Register.

Photo credit: nhregister.com



 

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