October 19, 2010

USA: 86-year-old back in classroom after 68 years

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LAFAYETTE, Indiana / WLFI / Newsletters / October 19, 2010 

86-year-old working on college degree

By Tiffanie Dismore

It's never too late to go back to school and get a degree, and 86-year-old Jerry Cole is proof of that. Cole is spending retirement in the classroom.

"It is one of those things I thought. 'Perhaps I should have had a degree in life.' I never had time," Cole explained from his English classroom at Purdue University's College of Technology in Lafayette, located at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc.'s training center.

Cole was Lafayette Life Insurance Company's Vice President of Marketing until he retired in 1988, but continues to work in the insurance business. That is why there never seemed to be enough time for college. Now he's working on getting an associate's degree.

Cole said being out of a classroom for 68 years can make it hard to jump back into annotated essays and research papers.

"If I have a problem or don't really understand something or what needs to be done, I have no reservations about calling Chris and asking him. He has been very helpful," Cole said.

Cole picks up the phone to call 19-year-old freshman Chris Maxwell. He and Cole have become study partners.

"Jerry and Chris working together, being study buddies, is unusual," laughed their English professor Rebecca Longster.

Both Cole and Maxwell said they talk on the phone regularly about class and answer questions for each other. Maxwell said he and Cole also meet outside of class every once in awhile to do their homework together.

There seems to be a lot one teenager can learn from someone a few generations older.

"He has taught me how to be successful because he went around doing it because it was his passion. It was what he wanted," Maxwell said.

Cole said getting a college degree is something he thinks he should have done. He has simple advice for anyone, any age, pondering whether to get a college degree.

"Do it!" Cole said. "Don't put it off. Life is too short. It catches up with you if you don't do something about it."

Cole is in his second semester and hopes to get his associate's degree in Organizational Leadership. He said he would also like to work towards a bachelor's degree.

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