Educator. Administrator. Politician. Bomber pilot. Golden Gloves champion. Businessman. Father. Husband of 71 years. Coach.
Jack Lund Schofield, who turns 90 in April, could retire when his term on the Board of Regents ends next year, but he’s not done.
He hopes to be practicing law before he turns 100.
Not exactly a standard retirement plan.
In light of Schofield’s dedication, his alma mater, the University of Utah, will honor him Sept. 13 with their College of Science Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is given to alumni who “exemplify the college’s commitment to science research, commitment and outreach.”
“After serving as a fighter-bomber pilot in the 14th Air Force Flying Tigers in China during World War II, I knew I needed to change directions in my life, and a college education was my ticket to doing so. The incredible faculty and people I met during my time at the University of Utah played a major role in making me who I am today,” Schofield said.
He moved with his family to Las Vegas in 1937, just in time to start his freshman year at Las Vegas High, now Las Vegas Academy. By graduation in 1941, he and his friends knew it was simply a matter of time before the war began.
“The war clouds were beginning to form. We kinda knew we were gonna be going into the service,” Schofield said. “I wanted to make sure I could defend myself if I ever had to. And at 5 foot 6 inches tall, I needed a little bit of help.”
Needless to say, he found out he could handle himself quite well, becoming the Golden Gloves Welterweight Champion in 1941, an accomplishment he still cherishes to this day.
The boxing champ signed up to become a military pilot. He and his five-man crew flew 22 missions in China during World War II as members of the “Flying Tigers” squadron.
With the war over, the now-husband and father wanted to continue his education, but at the time, there was no university in Southern Nevada. Schofield ventured to the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in zoology in 1949.
While Schofield never went into the zoological field, he credits this as the foundation for his future education and endeavors.
With his fighter-pilot days behind him and a college education, Schofield knew it was time to settle down with his growing family, and teaching provided him that opportunity.
He never thought he would develop such a passion for teaching, but knew to become a better educator, he would have to continue his own education.
“I just felt that if I was going to be in education I might as well try to give it the most I could give it by learning. You’re not going to go very far in any field if you don’t go to school. You need to go to school to fine-tune your skills and your knowledge, so I figured education is for a lifetime,” Schofield said. “It’s enabled me to lift to the next level.”
Enter the University of Utah’s College of Science Distinguished Alumni Award. The recipient is typically nominated by fellow alumni or colleagues. Schofield, however, was noticed and recognized by the university for his work, which is highly unusual.
“He’s had a lifetime of service in education, to the state of Nevada, and here at the university,” said James Degooyer, alumni and donor relations for the University of Utah.
Schofield’s dedication to education led to his master’s degree at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1967, before earning his doctorate in education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, at age 72. He continued to teach until 1998.
He began his public service career as a Nevada assemblyman from 1970 to 1974, and then state senator from 1974 to 1978.
As a member of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents since 2002, Schofield has pushed for an emphasis on the sciences and math.
In 2001, the newly built Jack Lund Schofield Middle School was named in his honor.
“He’s continuing to push those ideals even today. His impact over a lifetime has been immeasurable,” Degooyer said. “This award is just a small way of honoring his career.”
Much like becoming the namesake of a school, Schofield has taken this award nomination to heart.
“I feel very honored to even be considered to get an award like this,” Schofield said. “That’s what I want to leave as a legacy for my 91 years of age when I get termed out. I want to leave a legacy of opportunities for the kids, in math and in all sciences.”
But, he has no plans on retiring anytime soon.
“If I was physically unable to function, or mentally, and I’ll know that when that times comes when I’ll have to hang up the gloves. Until that time, I’m ready to serve,” he said.
Schofield may have dedicated his life to education, but his family is what motivates him.
On his entryway wall, alongside a photo of the school named in his honor, are photographs of his extended family, friends and numerous master’s and doctorate degrees his children have earned.
With six children, 34 grandchildren, and 57 great-grandchildren, nothing lights up the war veteran’s face like talking about the first time he saw his wife of 71 years, Alene.
As a 17-year-old, he was walking home from football practice at Las Vegas High when he wandered into the Sweet Shop inside the Golden Nugget and saw a “pretty little blonde girl” sitting alone in a booth. She was on her way home to Cedar City, Utah.
Nine months later, Alene returned to Las Vegas as a cafe waitress; sure enough, Schofield was waiting for her.
After three months of dating, he asked her to marry him. She thought he would give her trouble, and he admits she was right.
“But I always make sure I get the last two words in,” Schofield said.
Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0264.