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Class of his own

(October 19, 2000, Gazette)

Mr. Ron MaherSenior student

Ron Maher, 78, will receive a BA in political science tomorrow. Memorial will award over 700 degrees this fall. About 350 graduands, including Mr. Maher, will cross the Arts and Culture Centre stage during Fall Convocation 2000.

By David Sorensen

Ron Maher is not the retiring type. With most of his working, volunteering and family-raising days behind him, Mr. Maher found himself in 1987 with a lot of time on his hands.

His stint with the Catholic Education Committee had just ended when fellow committee member Dr. John Scott of Memorial’s philosophy department suggested Mr. Maher sign up for one of his courses. He did, despite the fact he “didn’t know a hell of a lot of philosophy. I thought it was bunk.”

Preconceptions aside, he passed the course and was hooked again on learning.

“I was addicted,” he said.

Tomorrow, the 78-year-old Torbay resident will walk across the stage of the Arts and Culture Centre and receive his bachelor of arts degree.

After that first philosophy course, Mr. Maher was unsure of what was next. He ended up in the office of assistant registrar Mary-Kaye MacFarlane, who advised him that a BA would require two courses in a foreign language. She then suggested Latin.

So Mr. Maher dutifully completed his two courses in Latin, and the other courses required for a degree in political science, with a minor in history. In the fall, he would attend class on campus in St. John’s. Spending the winter months with his wife Sheila in Florida, Mr. Maher would take distance education courses through the School of Continuing Education.
“Continuing Education is fantastic,” he said of the school. “They are not publicized enough for the work they do.”

Surrounded in the classroom with young people barely out of high school was a great experience, said Mr. Maher, though not without humourous moments. When a prof carried on a discussion about the advances in communications, he asked if anyone knew when the wristwatch was introduced. The prof then told a flabbergasted Mr. Maher, “Don’t you answer. You were probably around then.”

The wristwatch first appeared in the middle of the 19th century.

The next day the discussion turned to the first trans-Atlantic cable. “Does anyone know when the first transatlantic cable was laid and where?” asked the prof.

Mr. Maher’s hand shot up immediately.

“Heart’s Content, 1866. I remember it distinctly.”

Mr. Maher said he would be satisfied if his graduation encouraged other older people to get back in the classroom.

“It frightens me that people would sit around all day watching television,” he said.

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