MARSHALL?- It started as a "What do you think?"
Former Southwest Minnesota State University librarian John Bowden bounced the idea of a Senior College off history professor Lloyd Petersen more than 10 years ago.
"John came into my office and said, 'What do you think about having classes for those 50 and older - no tests, no grades?' I thought I had died and gone to heaven," Petersen said.
Photo by Karin Elton
The Senior College Singers, directed by Helen Pedersen, sang classical, pop and spiritual songs Monday afternoon at SMSU as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Senior College program. The singers learned the songs during the recent spring session of Senior College.
Petersen told a room of about 90 people - students and instructors - about the beginnings of the Senior College program at SMSU on Monday afternoon.
Bowden presented the idea to Assistant to Dean of Distance Learning Betty Roers to implement. He suggested she visit a program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to get an understanding of how Senior College would work.
After a planning meeting took place and community leaders assembled to gauge interest in the idea, it was evident that area residents had an interest in lifelong learning. In three short months the program was structured, an advisory committee was organized and the program was publicized, Roers said.
"It has steadily grown each year and draws seniors from a roughly 60-mile radius," Roers said.
"This program is a model for all the rest of the state," Bowden said.
Roers, who is now Senior College coordinator, said one of the highlights for her during the past 10 years was when Alexandria Technical College representatives asked her questions on how to get a senior college program started and how to fund it.
"I think it's a real compliment that they modeled their program after ours," she said.
Petersen said it is thanks to the "dynamic duo" of Bowden and Roers that the program has been so successful.
Petersen, who has offered a class every session during the past 10 years, said the instructors learn along with the students.
"It's not a one-way street," he said. "It takes teamwork - all of us working together. We learn from one another. You folks are an inspiration."