Changing the future for the better

By Tammy Wright, Collegiate correspondent.

What would possess a fifty-something to re-enter college? To many, I’d already reached hallowed ground: a pension, social security, Medicare, no daily obligations and most of the time, an empty nest. Am I nuts or what?

For me, retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I couldn’t just hang around until my kid picks out my nursing home. I was already plenty productive; sewing dancewear, making costumes for high school musicals, working as a master gardener and morphing into den mother for the high school lacrosse team my husband coaches. I love all these, but one thing still bothered me-not having a college degree.

Since marrying my husband in 1995, I’ve considered myself the family dummy. His late father was a pediatrician, his mom an RN, he’s an attorney, and his siblings and spouses include a CPA, an MBA, three people with four PhDs, three people with four MAs, and four BAs. Family gatherings were brutal. I would excuse myself from conversations about the latest tax laws and the molecular structure of who-knows-what, to refresh the punchbowl.

My first semester back at Delta, I had to write my first paper in 35 years. I handed it to my husband for a critique and out came the red pen. Who knew you couldn’t use past and present tense in the same sentence? I cried. I knew I wasn’t smart enough for college. I got an A on that paper and every one after that but without his help (I’m not going through that again).

When I started back, my desire was to counsel teens. I wanted to be a social worker. With each passing semester, I found out more about myself and as my perspective broadened, different things started to interest me. I can’t see myself sitting in a chair all day listening to adolescents, and quietly responding, “How does that make you feel?” I am boisterous and like to joke around. Not good qualities for a counselor. I’ve decided to major in sociology with a minor in criminal justice.

I have never seen any students close to my age roaming the halls of Delta. I emailed the registrar to ask if I was the oldest degree-seeking student. She said I was not-I think she lies. It doesn’t really matter, I am having a blast. Being around young people is fun and energizing. It’s also like having my own personal technology department following me around- “What’s an Em Dash and how do I find one on my laptop? How do I insert a header and page numbers?”

I am always amazed at the way my classmates address the professors. I was raised to call someone of authority by their title, unless told otherwise. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I cringe when an 18-year-old raises his hand and says, “Hey Jim, when is the assignment due again?” Yikes. Since I don’t have a death wish, I call my instructors “Professor so-and-so.” If they have a PhD, I address them as “Dr. so-and-so.” They worked hard for that title. If I had a PhD, I’d make everyone call me Dr. Wright-including my husband.

I was assigned to write three articles for The Collegiate, with the theme of being a non-traditional (old) student. It is an honors option project. I think everyone should try an honors class. It will push you beyond what you thought you were capable of. At my high school graduation in 1980, my friends wore their fancy Honors Society cords over their gowns. I wore my gown. This time will be different-I will get those cords. That’s another reason why this fifty-something reentered college-this is my mulligan.

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