A 30-year journey for a McMaster degree
Ruth Simmons is a Senior Class Assistant in Aging and Society 1BB3. 'The course really opens students' eyes.'
Ruth Simmons likes to say she’s one of the few to have taken 30 years to complete her degree.
It was the summer of 1952 and Simmons enrolled in English 106, her first course at McMaster. She had just completed a year at Hamilton Normal School (later named Hamilton Teachers’ College).
“I was teaching by the time I was 18,” recalls Simmons (née Almas), who explains this was a time when a university degree was not required to teach. The following winter, during her first year of teaching, she took Psych 106 in the evening. She soon married and, together with her husband, raised four children.
Fast forward to 1975. Her children were now in elementary school – and she decided to return to McMaster to finish her degree. “It was quite fun going back,” says Simmons, who returned as a part-time student. “You learn so much more as an adult. You’re studying for a different reason.”
By the time she had graduated with her honours BA in sociology in 1982, she was already teaching again – this time, junior kindergarten. Her new university qualifications made a big difference to her salary. “I was grateful every month for my McMaster degree,” she quips. She retired in 1996.
Simmons has been back on campus for several years now as a volunteer with Aging and Society 1BB3, an undergraduate elective offered by the Department of Health, Aging and Society in the Faculty of Social Sciences. As a Senior Class Assistant, she facilitates discussion groups with the students, who take turns preparing presentations. Topics range from debunking negative stereotypes about seniors, to discussing their financial needs. “The course really opens students’ eyes,” says Simmons.
Now a youthful 80 years old, she leads an active life, including playing the piano once a week at a seniors’ residence. She’s on the computer every day to stay in touch with her far-flung children and grandchildren.
“Sometimes I get tangled up with the computer. If I do, I just call a grandchild!”
Sounds like a true lifelong learner.
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