By Mark Reutter After a recess of 40 years, Arnold W. Dipert has reopened the casebooks on torts and civil procedure and is the oldest student in the UI College of Law. "At least nobody seems to know of an older one," said Dipert, 61, a retired UI engineering professor turned tenderfoot law student. But he added, "I don't feel any different from any other 25-year-old who struggles with challenging work." Obviously he has accepted the challenge well. He's made the dean's list for his good grades and is eager to learn more about the fundamentals of trial advocacy and evidence gathering. This is not Dipert's first time around the legal block. He attended the UI law school for several weeks in 1953 before returning to his original field of electrical engineering. "My strongest memory of that time was lagging pennies against the steps of Altgeld Hall, where the College of Law was then located. Gambling was illegal, of course, and law students liked to do little bitty things that were illegal." After a stint in the Army, Dipert spent more than 35 years across the street from Altgeld, mostly at Everitt Lab, as a graduate student and professor of engineering. In the 1960s, he helped build ionospheric sounding rockets for NASA, trekking to South America to fly and test the mechanisms, and he later worked with digital computers. He decided to return to the UI law school after retiring as assistant head of the department of electrical and computer engineering in 1992. "The law folks didn't buy my argument that I was a 'remit.' So I had to take the LSATs and formally apply," he recalled. "My wife was incredulous. She first realized that I was serious when I spent $40 for review books for the admission test." The professor emeritus said that law classes make him feel like any other student - excited and a bit anxious. "I don't think the faculty gives me any special deference. No, I think they picked on me as much as any other [student] in the first year. "But it's so different from what I was doing," he said. "I simply couldn't imagine spending my life fishing or playing golf. This keeps me alive." Following his graduation in the spring of 1995, Dipert plans to go into general practice in the Champaign-Urbana area and said he wouldn't mind trying his hand at criminal law. "A lot of people assume that I'd do patent law. Not at all. I'll see what turns up. I'm counting on 15 to 20 years of practicing law and enjoying every minute of it."