On their day off, two atypical Portland State students enjoy shelter from an afternoon storm. The Brandlons, who humbly boast a 52-year marriage, made their way over the rolling Cascade Range from the coastal town of Newport just two years ago to return to the classroom.
Education at a golden age
On their day off, two atypical Portland State students enjoy shelter from an afternoon storm.
Richard and Sheila Brandlon, ages 78 and 74, sit comfortably on their tiny loveseat in their one-bedroom apartment overlooking downtown Portland.
The Brandlons, who humbly boast a 52-year marriage, made their way over the rolling Cascade Range from the coastal town of Newport just two years ago to return to the classroom.
“I had to go back to school,” Richard said. “It prevents my brain from rotting.”
Both retired schoolteachers, the Brandlons have years of educational background. Sheila taught elementary school, while Richard taught junior high and high school as well as teaching at California Polytechnic State University after his retirement. Between the two of them, schools attended, cities lived in and countries visited is a long list.
But the academic life was too appealing to Richard and Sheila. The Brandlons are back in school at PSU, although they are not pursuing degrees. Instead, they’re taking advantage of nearly free continuing education courses offered at PSU.
French, drama, desktop publishing, art history and sociology are just a few of the courses the Brandlons have taken over their past two years at the university.
Since 1976, PSU has allowed Oregon residents aged 65 and up to register with its Senior Adult Learning Center (SALC). Residents are able to enroll and audit courses offered to any under-65 PSU student. The program’s success relies heavily on auditors’ donations, receiving very little money from the school or state.
“We have 514 senior citizens enrolled this term,” said Jost Lottes, program director of SALC. “Currently our program’s oldest auditor is 96 years old.”
Like many long-time marriages, the Brandlons have their fair share of teasing arguments, especially while discussing changes education has seen since they were first in college.
“Higher education hasn’t changed much, really,” Sheila said.
“Oh, I disagree,” Richard said. “Students challenge the professors much more now than they once did.”
However, the Brandlons do agree that both the economic burden of school and financial aid is “very pressing,” and that the number of women enrolled is much higher than in years prior.
“Oh, and campus housing is different, too,” Sheila explains. “I remember all I had in my room was a loveseat, a grand piano and a bookshelf.”
Now, the couple’s top-floor apartment is a place of modern art and avant-garde furnishings, not a distinct characteristic of today’s college-goers.
Though the couple like to stay in their apartment when they aren’t in class, Sheila said they enjoy going out as well.
“We love a good happy hour,” Sheila said.