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Retired school superintendent goes to law school to help poor people; it cost him $150K

Posted May 8, 2014 9:36 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A former school superintendent credits his decision to go to law school to former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps.

Phelps told students during a parents’ weekend in 1999 that they needed to find a way to give back. Nelson Bauersfeld, a Central New York school superintendent, was a parent in the audience. Years later, Bauersfeld remembered the advice and decided he would attend law school after retirement so he could do pro bono legal work, Syracuse.com reports.

Bauersfeld will graduate from Syracuse University’s law school on Friday at the age of 65. He took out $150,000 in school loans to attend. He is following in the footsteps of his son, who is an assistant Cayuga County district attorney.

Bauersfeld and three other law students created a group to offer fee legal help to veterans, and he also volunteered at a free tax clinic for low-income people. After graduation, he plans to accept paying clients to help pay the school loans, but he also wants to represent veterans and the elderly for free.

Bauersfeld wore a suit and tie to class except on Halloween, when he wore jeans, a T-shirt, a baseball cap and ear buds, the story says. When a teacher asked about his new attire, Bauersfeld explained he was dressing like a student for Halloween.

When Bauersfeld first began attending classes, a friend emailed him to ask how he was doing with all the young whippersnappers. "You mean the professors?" Bauersfeld responded.

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