70-year-old couple still hitting the booksWritten by Kyle Reynolds | | firstname.lastname@example.org
George and Edna Clemens are back in school together nearly 60 years since they met each other in the third grade.
The Clemens, 70, have been taking classes at BGSU since 1998 under a program called Senior Adult Grants for Education (SAGE), where Ohio residents over the age of 60 can take classes at BGSU for no credit without paying tuition.
Both have taken more than a dozen courses each at BGSU during the past 10 years, including four courses they have taken together.
Edna has taken several courses in foreign film, history and literature.
“I’m so old that when I was an undergrad, there were no film classes,” Edna said. “Foreign films were just beginning to appear in this country so these classes are a good opportunity to see those films.”
The couple took a class on the Cold War, which gave them a chance to share their experience with their fellow classmates on what it was like living at the time.
“It was history for them but nostalgia for us,” George said. “We lived before it, through it and saw it end.”
Edna said she brought in an original government pamphlet with instructions on how to build a fallout shelter that she shared with the class.
The program not only helps out seniors but also helps traditional students get a different view on issues from their elder classmates, said Stan Lewis, BGSU’s director of adult learner services and evening credit programs.
“We have found that the faculty likes to bring in their seniors’ different perspective to their classes,” Lewis said.
Edna said the professors and students have been ‘very welcoming’ to them.
Edna and George went to college in opposite ends of their home state of Virginia, with Edna attending the all-female Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) and George attending Virginia Tech.
After they graduated in 1960, Edna with a degree in English and George with a chemistry degree, they got married in 1961 — right before they dove back into their studies at rival graduate schools down Tobacco Road; she received a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, and he received his Ph.D from Duke University.
In the spring semester, there were 12 seniors enrolled in the SAGE program and last fall semester there were 11 enrolled, Lewis said.
The couple can’t understand why more seniors don’t take advantage of the program.
“Once you turn 60, it’s like being a kid in a candy store,” George said. “You can take classes about anything you’re interested in without tuition and you don’t have to take any of the tests.”
“It is free and there is no pressure,” Edna said. “I can’t understand why more of our contemporaries aren’t doing it.”
George, a retired BGSU chemistry professor, said he is still in awe of the research tools available on the Internet to him and to his former students.
“We get to experience college in a modern mode,” George said. “I’m still amazed I can go upstairs and google something arcane and find out so much about it.”
“You can do so much research online now,” Edna said. “As an undergraduate, I had to go to the library and read journals. We didn’t have copy machines so you couldn’t just copy journal articles and study at home.”
Edna said while there are more research tools available to today’s student, that doesn’t mean they have it easier than she did.
“Professors probably have higher expectations,” Edna said. “The students probably have to do more research because they can.”
Some perks for seniors in the program include a free parking pass, library access and a BGSU e-mail account.