He’s just another student of history at The University of Texas. But in his seventh decade, Larry Najvar has actually lived some of the history he studies.
When Larry Najvar was last a UT Longhorn in 1969, he was a math major with two courses to finish before graduation. Only weeks remained until commencement.
But he’d been selling Encyclopedia Britannica on the side, and when the company gave him a job offer, Najvar decided it couldn’t wait. He left school.
The schoolteacher’s son from Gonzalez later became a financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments, and so financially successful he bought an orange Hummer a few years ago.
He had such fun tooling around in it that he thought, “What else in my life have I always wanted to do but never gotten around to?”
The answer came quickly back in 2009, but the UT diploma hasn’t. It’s already taken years longer than the two math courses he’d expected, and he isn’t finished yet.
After 39 years without mathematical theory, the high-level courses he needed became impossible, even with 8-10 hours of private tutoring per week. He squeaked through one course, but couldn’t pass linear algebra.
So he changed his major to history. In one of his first history classes, they started with a book about San Antonio in the ’60s and ’70s.
Najvar was startled. He had actually lived in San Antonio in the ’60s and ’70s.
Even more jarring was the change in registration for courses.
Back in the day, Najvar recalls the six-hour, snaking-line free-for-all that was registration in Gregory Gym.
This semester, he registered from his iPhone. It took all of 45 seconds.
Najvar has taken seven courses in history and one in art history, and he has one to go: “Film History of South America.”
At first he adored being back on the Forty Acres so much he had a nightmare he was already finished (yes, a nightmare!)
“Now, after five semesters, I am ready to go on,” he says. “It’s not the classes—I love the discussion. On the other hand, there’s writing the research papers.”
Writing about Teddy Roosevelt and Juan Perón and other historical figures has been fascinating, but all-consuming, he says. He’ll be in a financial advising session and thinking about how he’s going to structure a paper on Henry B. Gonzalez.
But he’s going to savor his unique status for one more fall—he’s purchasing student tickets for the football season.
Photos by Kae Wang