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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

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 course.

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 usual student.

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," Zeichner said.

"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 pleasing."

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


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