David JonesCaption: History major David G. Jones is the recipient of the university's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Award this year. Photo: Matt Gush Download Photo

Retiree Achieves Dream

One of CSUF’s Oldest Grads Garners OLLI Award

Though he was successful as a top executive in the financial services field and as owner of his own financial planning practice, David G. Jones never considered his career his passion.

“It was just a career,” he said. “I always felt second-rate because I never got my B.A.”

Not any more.

Today, the 70-year-old Cal State Fullerton student prepares to don cap and gown to receive his bachelor’s degree in history, an accomplishment he had yearned to attain for decades.

With his wife of 51 years, five children, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren cheering him on, Jones will walk the stage at his commencement ceremony Saturday, May 19, as this year's recipient of the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Award.

The award honors an outstanding older graduate who personifies the importance of continuing learning.

“I’m honored and I appreciate this recognition,” Jones said. “I think this award recognizes persistence and hard work over many years. I think it's about that — pick something you’re interested in and go for it, no matter what your age.”

Jones, who lives in Rowland Heights, grew up on a farm in Newhall, where he said he learned to work hard, driving tractors, plowing fields and harvesting vegetables and fruits. In high school, he played for championship football and basketball teams. After taking a few courses at Bakersfield College and then at Brigham Young University, where he played football, he dropped out to take his first job at a consumer loan firm and provide for his family.

Through the years, however, he took community college courses at night. In 2008, he transferred to Cal State Fullerton with more than 80 units of course work.

“History was always one of my passions so I decided to make it my major,” he said, adding that the road to his degree was rigorous and challenging, but most “satisfying.”

In fact, he speaks enthusiastically about his favorite history courses and professors and what he’s learned.

In one class, he said, his final culminated in a 21-page paper he titled “Masada a National Myth: Ancient Battle Resurrected in the Twentieth Century.”

In it, he tells the story of the Battle of Masada, part of a larger Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, in 72 and 73 A.D., when Jewish zealots and rebels, who were cornered by the Roman army on an isolated mountain top near the Dead Sea, staged a mass suicide.

“The voices on this mountain top that had remained silent for centuries, came to life in the 20th century and spoke volumes to Jews returning to their homeland in Palestine,” Jones wrote.

His paper addresses questions about how the refusal to fight to the last man became a source of national identity and inspiration for a country struggling for independence and why the Masada story was important to the Zionist movement in the 1920s.

“The Masada story also provides an opportunity to explore the different cultural manifestations of the Masada myth as reflected by pop culture in Israel,” Jones said.

“Masada became Israel's rallying cry for freedom, hope and the courage to die, if necessary, for the survival of Israel. Clearly, those early settlers of Israel and future generations were inspired to identify with the symbolism of that fortress on top of Masada, where the zealots struggled in the face of overwhelming odds against the Roman Empire,” his paper concludes. “This heroic mythos had the power to stir the hearts and minds of Jews in their efforts to occupy and defend modern day Israel. ...The ability of a heroic myth to help inspire the settlement of a new nation and impact it sociologically cannot be denied.”

One of Jones’ favorite teachers, Jochen Burgtorf, chair and professor of history, characterized Jones as “a good student” and “a delight to have in class.”

Burgtorf said Jones’ younger classmates liked having him in class, and they enjoyed interacting with him and learning from their elder peer.

Top of Story