CAMDEN — Four years after watching his son graduate from the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, Bill Popovich is returning to the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden for commencement. Only this time, he’ll be the one wearing the cap and gown as he receives a law degree.
Popovich, 53, is graduating from law school at Rutgers–Camden on May 19. The Robbinsville resident says he was inspired to pursue his law degree after hearing his son, also named Bill, talk about what he learned in class.
“He would come home from school every day and discuss what he learned,” Popovich says. “It always interested me and seeing him in law school motivated me. He actually challenged me to pursue my degree.”
Popovich had been a data processing manager in the East Windsor School District for 22 years before being laid off last year. He had also completed his master of business administration degree through the University of Phoenix online degree program, but felt compelled to change careers.
“With my background in education, I think there’s an opportunity to work in education law,” Popovich says. “I’m also interested in employment law. At my age, I think it would be tough to take a position as an associate, so I may take the adventurous route and build my own practice.”
The younger Bill Popovich, who graduated from the Rutgers School of Law–Camden in 2007, has an independent practice in Manchester and prepares wills. He’s also a part-time teacher at a private school.
“I’m very proud of him,” the younger Bill Popovich says of his father.
At Rutgers–Camden, it is customary for graduates of the law school to receive their degrees on stage from family members who also graduated from the Rutgers School of Law–Camden. On May 19, the younger Bill Popovich will present his father with his degree.
“It’s one of the nicest parts of the ceremony, when you see family members presenting the diploma to the graduates,” says the younger Popovich. “It’s going to mean a lot to both of us.”
It isn’t uncommon for college professors to teach both parents and their children at the same university, but it’s usually the parents who are taught first.
“I would walk into a class and have a professor who also taught my son just a few years before and I think some of them got a kick out of that,” the elder Popovich says. “It’s been a long time since I spent time on a college campus. There’s a real sense of community here. People younger than my son accepted me as one of the students. I never felt like the old guy.”
He continues, “The professors here treat the students like colleagues and I think there’s a lot of value in that. It was everything that I had hoped for. Rutgers was a great experience for both of us.”
The father and son haven’t ruled out the possibility of practicing law together and the thought excites them.
“Maybe someday,” the elder Popovich says. “This is something we have in common and it’s important to us, so that would be nice.”
He also may continue his education and pursue a doctorate.
“Education is something that can’t be taken from you,” Popovich says, “I would have done this for the experience alone.”
Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse