Some folks think retirement is a great time to travel, but others feel it’s the perfect time to go back to school and prepare for a second career.
Jim Jenkins, 65, and Virgil Alcazaren, 64, are recent graduates from the University of Dayton in May. Both have words of advice for other seniors thinking of furthering their education.
“Go for it!” says Jenkins. “Learning is the fountain of youth. It’s important to keep your mind sharp. You shouldn’t sit in front of the TV smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.”
Alcazaren agrees. Retirement gives you needed study and test-prep time. “You can blow the cobwebs out of your brain.
Jenkins grew up watching lawyer Perry Mason solve cases on TV and decided to be an attorney. After military college, he enlisted, married and started a family. His assignments took him worldwide. He finished law school but didn’t find time to study for the bar exam, mandatory for practice. After he retired from the military, he took a contract assignment that landed him in Saudi Arabia.
That’s when he started studying for the bar. He also chose the University of Dayton for an LL.M, a Master of Laws degree, an internationally recognized postgraduate law degree. The UD program was perfect because it was 100% online, Jenkins notes.
Alcazaren also liked the idea of online courses. Retired after three decades at M&T Bank in a variety of management positions, he planned to focus on teaching, adding to his 20 years as an adjunct professor at Niagara University near his Buffalo, New York home.
“Teaching has become my passion,” he says. Both of his parents also taught courses well past retirement. Alcazaren promised his mother before her death that he would top his bachelor’s degree in engineering and his Master of Business Administration with a doctorate in education. He applied to UD’s doctoral program in educational leadership. “I believe in keeping my promises.”
Both men admit they made big commitments. The LL.M. program takes a year, but with Jenkin’s full-time work schedule, it took 18 months. Alcazaren’s program took three years of part-time class work as he continued teaching.
Virtual classes and online professor conferences were a plus. Course materials could be downloaded. Alcazaren was used to meetings via computer screen after years in business. Jenkins says the process is easy. And often classmates don’t display their faces, so neither stood out as the “oldest in the class.”
The hardest part, Alcazaren notes, was learning to study again.
“In my first bunch of assignments, I had to read 30 pages. I hadn’t read that much in a while,” he laughs. “I was already good at math. But suddenly I had to write five pages on a topic.”
He learned to like writing. And he learned to organize his time to free up four hours of study time weekdays with weekends for catch-up. Jenkins notes he could put in four study hours after work and dinner while alone in his Saudi apartment.
“You definitely have to stay on top of it,” Jenkins adds, who admits he also spent many weekends studying to ensure he didn’t fall behind. “But to me it was a pleasure. I’ve always loved to read.”
Now back from Saudi Arabia and living in Marietta, GA, Jenkins took the Georgia bar exam in February. He says he would like to devote several days a week to the DeKalb County Veteran’s Court to help veterans like himself.
“I’ve traveled around the world. I’ve been to China 10 times,” he says. “I just want to settle down here and work three days a week.”
Alcazaren is not sure if he’ll ever retire. He loves watching students “spark” with new understanding. He says he often thinks of a recent student—a 60-year-old who thought about quitting until Alcazaren offered to mentor him. “He graduated last Spring. That’s why I teach.”
Considering going back to school? Try it—no tuition!
Find out if going back to college is for you. Under Ohio law, resident 60 or older can attend classes at any Ohio public university, technical or community college or their branches. In-person or online classes. No tuition.
You do not receive course credits, and space must be available in classes you choose. You also may be responsible for extra fees. Wright State University and Sinclair Community College offer tuition-free programs for seniors. Clark State College offers a Mature Citizens program for prospective students who are age 60 or older. (Private colleges University of Dayton and Wittenberg University offer classes geared to seniors at a set tuition rate.)
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