URI student finds learning a lifelong adventure
PROVIDENCE, R. I. -- October 13, 2000 -- At 82, it's unusual to be working
toward a college degree, a bachelor of arts in history, to be precise.
But to Lew Woodward of Barrington, the degree is just another
goal to reach. "I've always set goals," he said. "It's been
my lifelong philosophy to have something to aim for."
Woodward said he has been taking courses at the University of Rhode
Island's Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education just
so he would have something to do during his retirement. His 40-plus year
career had been spent at the Fulford Manufacturing Co. in East Providence,
where he began as a tool maker then went on to become a purchasing agent,
executive vice president and finally president.
Taking the College Level Examination Program in 1985 was the first step
in his college career. He began slowly; taking one or two courses a semester.
In his words, being "reasonably successful" gave him the confidence
to take three courses a semester. Initially advised to take business courses,
he instead began taking more and more history courses and eventually changed
his major. Going back to school after several decades-long hiatus, he acknowledged,
was scary. "I kept asking myself what I was doing there."
He had not been a good student when he was young, and often wondered
what the point was in returning. Still, he persevered and took a wide range
of subjects, including Rhode Island political history. He even aced a math
Woodward said he appreciates the diversity at URI's Providence campus
and enjoys nothing more than a teacher with a sense of humor. He considers
himself just another student. "Though I'm not usually singled out,
my age does sometimes create a bit of humor in the class," he said.
According to Saul Zeichner, one of his instructors, Woodward is not the
During his Life Span Development II course, which covered human development
from a biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual perspective,
his 82-year-old student displayed a "dry, very sharp sense of humor
and a directness and clarity in getting his points across to the class,"
"He really helped the class learn about both the positive and negative
aspects of aging," the educator said.
His final essay for the course, Zeichner said, was "a very creative
paper in the form of a letter to his older brother," in which he spoke
of his philosophy on aging, applying theories from his college texts.
"The point is, we have nothing to say about aging because it was
programmed some 80-odd years ago," he wrote. "Yet, to be 80-odd
creates a kind of pride."
In the essay, "Senescence is a lifetime job and I approach it unwillingly,"
he wrote that while he is mature enough to accept aging, he did join the
YMCA "in hopes of maintaining what little strength is left."
"Our biology is in the hands of gods, and I have very few complaints
as the clock winds down."
Of great importance to him is "the affection I feel for my children
and they have for me (and) to have in my life an abundant health is spiritually
Since writing those words, Mr. Woodward has had major and unexpected
surgery, and the impact forced him to cancel a summer trip to England with
one of his professors and fellow students.
"I would have earned nine credits on that trip," he said.
"Now I have to make it up. Physical illness has changed me, but it
hasn't changed my will. My immediate goal is to get back to being that
macho old man in that essay."
By Doris Greenberg, URI-CCE '71, '82
For Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116