Lessons in Life

It's never too late to learn new tricks

By Carol Kleiman

Think you could turn in your briefcase and high heels for sneakers and a backpack? Your 9-to-5 schedule for all-night cram sessions?

Going back to school among the Triangle’s fresh, wide-eyed 20-somethings might seem intimidating.

But it could be worth it. Just ask the people who know.

“I went back to college for three years and got my bachelor’s degree when I was 46 years old,” says Della F. Richardson, adult-student coordinator at the University of the Pacific in California.

“At first, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to compete with those smart, just-out-of-school kids. But not only could I compete, I could do better than they could. I had years of experience to relate to what I was learning in books.

“My degree was the best investment I have ever made. It gave me confidence in myself, which is something money can’t buy.”

the reason she has her present job.

“It opened doors for me that I would never have been able to enter,” Richardson says.
“Four years ago, my alma mater hired me to work with their re-entry students. Isn’t this a great way to make a living?”

A college education can make a big diffence in your career opportunities, no matter what your age.

“I worked as a registered nurse from 1946 to 1986,” says Helen Peele, who today is a part-time therapist in substance abuse and family-related issues.

“In 1998, I completed my master’s program in counseling — at age 72,” Peele says. “It’s truly never too late.”

Shelley Bresler admits that she hesitated before she returned to school, worried that she was too old.

“I finally dared a friend to go back with me. I was 46. I took classes that really interested me.”

After working a few years, Bresler was offered her dream job: sales representative for World Book Inc.

“At age 55, I am doing something that I absolutely love, that pays me better than any job I’ve ever had and that still gives me time to spend with my grandkids,” she says.

And her friend?

“She just completed her master’s degree in art therapy and loves her job, too.”
Homer Johnson is a professor in the school of business administration at Loyola University.

He strongly believes in getting a degree and shares this story:

“A woman said her dream was to be a veterinarian. She had taken some pre-vet courses, but family problems forced her to drop out,” he says.

“Now she’s 40 years old and in a position to pursue her dream, but she’s worried it will take her six years to get her degree. By then she will be 46.”

Johnson says her career counselor asked her how old she would be in six years if she didn’t go back to school.

The counselor said, ‘Won’t you be the same age in six years whether you go back to school or not? The only difference is that if you don’t, you’ll be 46 and unhappy that you didn’t go after your dream.’”