Editor's Note: This story, written by Kay Dahlke, originally ran on the front page of the December 4 issue of The News Graphic, the community newspaper of Ozaukee County.
Almost 70 years in the making, Walter William Raebel will receive an honorary doctorate of law degree Dec. 15 at graduation ceremonies at Concordia
Raebel’s path to this degree wasn’t an easy one. Born in 1928 in Milwaukee, he attended Lutheran-based elementary and high schools in Milwaukee. Upon high school graduation, and knowing that his number in the World War II draft was imminent, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. When he returned to civilian life, and after taking a little time off, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin Madison, working part-time at a local pharmacy to pay his
Raebel had earned 118 credits and needed two more classes to earn his undergraduate degree. During the first semester of his senior year and shortly before taking a final exam, his father unexpectedly passed away. He was
faced with a difficult decision. Financially strapped and most likely unable to complete the last semester before moving on to earning a law degree, he rushed home to help his family.
After a series of jobs where he worked his way up to positions of responsibility in Milwaukee, Kansas City and the upper northeast region of the country, Raebel and his family returned to the Milwaukee area, ending up in Cedarburg, where they’ve lived for 53 years.
Raebel has been a member of Cedarburg Peter Wollner American Legion Post 288 for the past 31 years. During his time at the post, he has been involved in helping veterans of all eras and their families and has served in various officer
roles within the post. His service to the post has made a tremendous impact to his community and fellow brothers and sisters.
“His desire to get a degree comes to show his family (children and grandchildren) and fellow veterans that they are never too old to pursue a degree, and with a little help from a strong and faithful c o m m u n i t y, anything is possible,” said Ed Garza, executive director of Community Engagement and Veteran Services at CUW.
It was Garza’s mission to see to it that Raebel would earn a degree. He made a presentation to the committee at CUW, where it was decided that an honorary degree would be conferred upon the veteran.
“Mr. Raebel, at 90 years old, would be the first in his family to attain one,” Garza said. “We’re exited to welcome Walt into the CUW family.”
Veterans walk down the aisle during the Dec. 15 commencement ceremony first, with Raebel among them, wearing a hat and gown. All graduating veterans receive a red, white and blue graduation cord.
“It’s just another item off my bucket list,” Raebel joked. “I never gave a thought about it,” he said of the disappointment of having to drop out of school. “I made my choice. I’ve had great mentors along the way.”
But he would like to showcase to all veterans that they have great opportunities now to pursue a college degree.
“It doesn’t matter at what age, but to follow their dreams to make something happen for their family and themselves,” concluded Garza in his presentation.
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