Eighty-year-old graduates from UVM

“My kids say I’m a newsoholic,” confesses eighty-year old Dorothy Butler Adams, a recent UVM December graduate. Pointing to a stack of publications on the coffee table, including the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report, her voracious reading habits are apparent. Adams began her college education in her mid-seventies, having no formal education since May of 1941. A lowly freshman, with no credits in her back pocket and a daunting string of courses ahead of her, Dorothy chose History as a major. Adams says of her reasons for starting the endeavor, “I was the only one in the whole family who hadn’t been a graduate so I figured it was my turn.” Her father, who studied at the West Point Military Academy with such figures as Douglas MacArthur, indoctrinated Adam’s interest in history. “The craving for knowledge rubbed off on her from her father. She worked diligently and hard at achieving her goals,” said Melanie Gustafson, who was a repeat professor of Adam’s. Adams reflects about her experience as a student, saying that, “you get other peoples’ ideas and that can send you off in a whole new direction.” Certainly, the same holds true for how students perceived her. At her age, she brings experience to the class that others could not have had. In Melany Gustafson’s US Women’s History class, students read about Eleanor Roosevelt. Students were going around a circle, talking about what they had learned. “People in class had obviously done the reading,” says Adams, “they were using up the material very rapidly and I thought, ‘what on earth am I going to say.’ So I finally said in my head, ‘the heck with it,’ so when it got to me I said, ‘I can’t add anything except that I met her twice.'” Life experience aside, Adams still has not mastered the computer. She did her schoolwork on a typewriter, surprising most professors who hadn’t seen typewritten work in years. On visiting the campus library, having to extract information from the UVM network or Internet, she would use age to her advantage saying, “I’m a little old lady and I don’t know how to use your computers; would you please help me?” The librarians helped her, of course. Adam’s college career, 120 credits later, was not only a success, but also reason for Interim President Colodny to single Adams out at the luncheon for December graduates. He called her up to the microphone and gave her a big hug and said, “I wish you all success in your job search.” A roar exploded from the audience. Speaking of UVM, Adams enjoyed going through school at her age. “It was a marvelous experience,” she beams, “from the teachers to the administration to the students. I love it!”