Nixon enrolled at nearby Whittier College in September 1930. He was an active student there, pursuing his interests in student government, drama, and football while living at home and helping to run the family's store. Nixon won a scholarship to attend Duke University's law school in May 1934, where he was president of the Student Bar Association and a member of the law review. He graduated in June 1937.
Nixon returned to Whittier and joined the law firm Wingert and Bewley. On January 16, 1938, he met Thelma Catherine Ryan, a schoolteacher universally known as "Pat," at a rehearsal for a community play in which they were both acting. Smitten, Nixon pursued Ryan, and they were married on June 21, 1940, in the Presidential Suite of the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, and honeymooned in Mexico.
In January 1942, the Nixons moved to Washington, D.C., where Nixon joined the Office of Price Administration. He soon left the bureaucracy and entered the Navy on August 17, 1942. Originally assigned to a naval station in Ottumwa, Iowa, Nixon requested and received a transfer to the South Pacific theater, where he served with the Combat Air Transport Command on the island of New Caledonia and, later, Bougainville in the Solomon Islands and Green Island.