November 8, 2011

Portrait of a non-Traditional student: Herb Wilson

By Nathan Douglas–

Herb Wilson keeps his mind active in his later years. As a 1950 graduate from the University of Louisville, Herb decided to return to the University after retirement to utilize the tuition-free classes offered to senior citizens. After a life in the military and industrial paint industry, Herb looks to stay very busy with school and in the community. This semester he’s taking two courses, an introductory Geography course and a course in Political Science. At 83 years of age, Herb is quite far from being a traditional student.

Q. How long have you been taking courses at U of L?
A. As a senior, I guess I started in ‘92 or ‘93, and I’ve been taking at least one or two courses a semester since then. I’ve chosen to audit them, which means I don’t write papers or take tests, except for in math courses, but I want to remember what I want to remember, not what the teacher wants me to remember.”

Q. Do you prefer Thanksgiving or Halloween?
A. I guess now I prefer Thanksgiving, but there was a time when I preferred Halloween. When we were kids there was no trick or treat, it was all quote “tricks”. We soaped windows, that was one of the things that we did do. There were others things more vile than that, but I honestly never did them.

Q. What Music do you listen to?
A. I like a variety of music; I guess Bluegrass is probably one of my favorites. I like jazz, not modern jazz, but old-time New Orleans, St. Louis type jazz, and I like some classical music.

Q. Are you religious?

A. Yes I am, I’m a Baptist, but I’m a liberal Baptist, if there is such a thing as that. I’m not one that believes that the Earth was created 2000 or 4000 years ago. In my own mind I can blend evolution with creationism, I have no problem with that. It always seems odd to me that we speak of places in the universe being light years away, and how in the world can you accept that and say that this whole place is only 4000 or 6000 years old, whatever the number is. Christ said, “I was hungry and you fed me, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I needed a place to stay and you housed me, I was sick and you healed me,” and that is who I am.

Q. What is biggest difference in the University between your first and second time around?
A. I guess I look at my professors more now as people who’s job it is to teach me instead of looking up to them wishing I had all their knowledge in my mind. It’s a better school now than it probably was when I was going, and part of that is when I was going, it was right after World War II. All of these veterans had come back, and U of L was not prepared for that. A lot of the teachers we had at that time were just pulled out of the woodwork. A lot of the chemistry teachers weren’t teachers as their professions but were working other chemical jobs and came to teach. We had some fine teachers back then, too.

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Photo: Nathan Douglas/The Louisville Cardinal

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