Lifelong Learners Indeed

Posted by cservaes on March 12, 2012 in "Academic Programs", Community In 1958, William Mercier arrived at Ottawa University, having chosen it by throwing a dart at a board of Baptist schools he was considering. He was 18 and had a very dominate East Coast accent. He spent his first semester in speech correction class (for no credit) because no one could understand him. As for Mercier, he felt like he had been “plopped down in a western movie. Everyone said ‘howdy!’” Despite initial difficulties, Mercier settled into life at OU, finding community there. A few weeks before his senior year, Mercier was drafted. He left OU without finishing his degree and flew off to Southeast Asia. Joanne “Jody” Toy managed one year of college after high school in 1946. Her money ran out and she couldn’t complete her education. She married, and once her three children were safely ensconced in school, she acquired her associate’s degree at a local community college and thought that was an achievement. “It wasn’t the whole enchilada,” says Toy. She found herself single again when the kids were ready to enter college themselves, so she started her own business - a picture framing store and art gallery - and saw to it they all received their degrees. Toy married again and spent fifteen years traveling extensively in an RV. “It was a wonderful time,” says Toy, “but the education itch was still there.” When her husband passed away in 1995, Toy once again picked up her degree dreams at University of Texas-Brownsville. She remarried while studying history and, for a second time, spent time traveling. Her husband’s failing health recently brought those trips to an end and eliminated her hopes of attending college in a traditional classroom, as much of her time is spent taking care of her husband and keeping track of doctor appointments. At first, online education seemed daunting because she had little computer experience, but as with everything else in her life, Toy was up for the challenge. Now, with her husband’s encouragement and at the age of 85, she has nearly reached her goal. In 1966, Dave Pattridge began college for the first time. “The first time I attended college, I was focused on anything but academics,” says Pattridge. He left due to failing grades and a lack of interest. This time around, his motivation is much different. After completing his OU degree in history, Pattridge intends to pursue his doctorate so he can teach collegiate-level courses — perhaps in American Civil War, colonial or even ancient American history. Pattridge lives out his passion for history by participating in Civil War reenactments. “It becomes a living thing, not just words on the pages of a dry, old history book,” says Pattridge. He also builds model trains and models of WWII armor and aircrafts. “The local air museum keeps me busy as a volunteer and as a flight line crew chief during our annual air show,” says Pattridge. These three OU students are anything but traditional and each of them has chosen to finish the race they started decades ago and earn their college degrees. They are part of OU’s online community and Julie McAdoo is their advisor. “We currently have 17 students over the age of 60 taking courses exclusively online,” says McAdoo. “I know that mastering the technology is challenging, but no more so than for many younger students. Also, like many of our other students, completing their degree is a personal goal, but I think they have an even stronger commitment to that goal. They want to finish what they started, even if it was many years ago.” Returning to college is an exhausting, often overwhelming feat in itself, so why face the challenge of school in an online environment? “Ottawa’s online division was an easy choice because it makes my life much simpler to work around my schedule for class assignments,” says Pattridge. “The online search for a university that offered the option of online study revealed several options. Some were no more than degree mills offering no real, substantial education. I chose OU for its standing as an accredited fouryear institution and the helpful staff that guided my admission procedure.” Toy misses the discussion and ideas that so naturally flow in a traditional classroom, but she’s getting by. “I have muddled through, with the help of my computer-literate son,” says Toy. She is steadily taking one class at a time because, “It’s just something I started and never finished, and it bugs me.” So what became of William Mercier? He’s back at Ottawa University, majoring in English, having come full circle. After 42 years as a hair stylist, he is retired and ready for the next challenge, one that has lingered in the back of his mind since leaving OU. His life adventures include a stint in Japan, doing hair and makeup design for theatre and the silver screen, and even securing a patent for an invention, the PetPorch. He’s also learning to speak Russian; his tutor lives in Russia and Mercier hopes to visit him some day. However, the unfinished education of his youth has haunted him, and it only made sense to return to his roots and complete his degree at OU. “I grew up on a dairy farm with no electricity,” says Mercier. “Now I’m earning my degree online.” The online trio encourages others to join them in pursuit of big dreams. “Never stop learning,” says Toy. “It’s what makes you human.”