Seniors contribute to Acadia classes
University courses became free for senior citizens in the mid '70s.
Dr. Jim Perkin described how it started in 1974 as the brainchild of the provincial government, "which had just woken up to the fact that Canadians were getting older, that there were more of them and that universities could do something useful for them."
He recalled the late Acadia president, Dr. Jim Beveridge, requested in 1974 the senate draw up some perimeters. He and Dr. Bill Draper were handed the chore and they concluded seniors should be able to take credit course without payment or prerequisite.
The only restriction involved courses requiring art studio space or computers. Perkin said the student government so liked the idea, they offered the seniors ID cards at registration.
In the fall of the first year 60 seniors turned up. Perkin said they took a whole range of classes, but some courses, like Maritime history, were very popular.
"Some audited classes and when the weather got bad they went to Florida," he noted.
But others, like a retired German physician and a teacher near the end of her career, he remembered achieved degrees.
It wasn't long before there were 100 seniors enrolled at Acadia and, Perkin said, during the final years of the program there were about 130 annually.
"There was an administrative load," he said, "but the registrar's staff were happy to do it."
Best of all, the seniors enriched Acadia's classrooms considerably.
Perkin told three stories to illustrate their contribution. The first was about the late Jim Stokesbury's class on the military history of the Italian campaign in the Second World War. As Stokesbury sketched out the final stages of the Allied attack, a voice piped up and a veteran said, "It was the fifth of May and it was bloody cold."
In another course a senior was able to describe a demonstration that took place in New York City because of taking part. Finally Perkin spoke about the notable class marks in Spanish 100.
Language prof Irma Vasileski came to Perkin, who had become president, concerned about a 14 per cent improvement in her class average. Eventually, it was determined three older ladies from Port Williams were the cause.
The trio decided to work hard on Vasileski's course because of all the bright, young minds in the class, explained Perkin. "They met on their off days and worked on assignments."
Not to be shown up, he said, the students doubled their efforts at classwork and, as a result, the entire class mark zoomed up.
"I don't think that ever happened before. The story illustrates the impact of the seniors," Perkin said.
Acadia registrar Rosemary Jotcham remembered Eugene Hamm was one of the few seniors to capture a degree.
"He was a very interesting individual." Today, she added, seniors can audit university courses for free through the Acadia lifelong learning program, but few do.