November 13, 2014

BY TERI CAMPBELL
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE - Rose Howerton is the definition of a life-long learner and she knows it’s never too late to pursue a goal.  At 84 years old, the Carterville native is back in college and determined to complete her degree. 

Howerton, born Rosemarie Bogard in Carterville in 1930, said when she graduated from high school in 1948, college wasn’t an option for her.

“We were a poor family, although I didn’t realize that at the time, and there was no way I could afford to go to college,” Howerton said.  “I immediately got a job so I could support myself.  While working full time, I took college classes at night so I could advance in my career, but I never finished my degree.  I always wanted to go back to school and get it and now I finally am.”           

Howerton’s sister-in-law, Colleen Bogard, urged her to return to school.

“I know Rose thinks education is extremely important,” Bogard said.  “She always encouraged her nieces and nephews to go to college, and I’ve heard her say many times that she wanted to get her degree.  Last year she lost her very close friend, Jeanne Reynolds, and I said to her, ‘If you want to go back to school, then you should go.  You’re not too old.  This is the time to do it.’”

Howerton followed Bogard’s advice.  Fifty years after she’d taken her first college class, she enrolled in 11 credit hours at John A. Logan College last spring and earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.  Unafraid of embracing new technology, she then successfully navigated two online classes at Logan during the summer semester.

“Everyone at Logan has been so nice and helpful,” Howerton said.  “Jane Minton, my academic advisor, and all of my instructors have been really supportive and encouraging.  It had been a long time since I’d taken classes, and they all made me feel welcome and comfortable.” 

Howerton also worked with Anita Gentry, the Southern Illinois University service center coordinator at JALC, and mapped out a plan to transfer to SIU to complete her bachelor’s degree after she finishes at Logan.  This fall she is dually enrolled with three classes at Logan and one at SIU.

“Rose is so dedicated and she’s doing great in her classes,” Gentry said.  “To come back to school after so long and when so many things have changed is amazing.  When she was in school previously, there wasn’t the technology that we have now.  She’s immersed herself in it and has done so well. 

“She’s really inspiring, and I think she’s a good role model for some of our younger students,” Gentry continued.  “She proves that if you want something bad enough, it’s never too late to go for it.” 

Gentry isn’t the only one with high praise for Howerton.  Cheryl Bernhardt, associate professor of business at JALC, has taught Howerton in three classes and said she is a “model student.” 

“Rose is exceptional,” Bernhardt said.  “She is extremely motivated and sets such a high standard for herself.  She works hard and loves to learn, and she isn’t intimidated by any assignment or any form of technology.  It’s been a true blessing meeting her and having her in class.”     

While Howerton is excelling in her classes, she said things have changed a lot since she first attended college.

“I’ve always loved school, and I used to make straight A’s without a lot of effort, but I can’t do that anymore,” she said.  “I don’t seem to retain information the way I used to.  My memory isn’t as good as it used to be, and I didn’t realize that until I started doing homework again.  I get frustrated sometimes, but I’m enjoying what I’m learning and the extra effort it takes now is worth it.”

Howerton said another big change about going to college today is the cost.

“The first class I took at SIU was in the winter of 1964 and cost just $25 and that included the book rental,” she said.  “It is so much more expensive now.  I’m fortunate that because of my age, I don’t have to pay tuition at Logan, only fees and books.  I think that’s such a great policy (Anyone over the age of 60 can attend JALC tuition free.).  It encourages seniors to continue to learn and do things that are meaningful to them.”                

After this semester ends, Howerton is slated to transfer to SIU full time and is on track to finish her bachelor’s degree in Workforce Education and Development in December of 2015.  She said completing her degree will be a personal highlight for her.

“I’ve had a lucky life,” she said.  “I had a wonderful husband (the late Jim Howerton), a good family, very good friends, and good health.  Most of my friends think I’m crazy to be back in school at my age, but getting my college degree is important to me.  It has been a goal of mine for a long time and I want to accomplish it.”