Each semester, Carol Curtis cannot decide which class she wants to take. At 71 years old, she has audited a class nearly every fall and spring semester since 2011.

“When you get to be my age, you’re supposed to do something to keep your mind pretty sharp,” she says. “Some people my age say they do crossword puzzles, but that only makes you good at doing crossword puzzles.”

Carol Curtis

Lawrence resident Carol Curtis, 71, continues to attend classes at Rider University. 

Curtis chooses classes that interest her. Just some of the topics she’s explored in the 26 classes (and counting) that she’s audited include drugs and human behavior, theatre, politics of the Middle East, the Kennedy assassination and counterterrorism. As part of her studies at Rider, she has also traveled to China (twice), Cuba, Hong Kong, Charleston and Vietnam, and seen dozens of Broadway shows.

“I think it’s just fun to learn about topical things,” she says. “I can’t decide because they’re all so interesting.” Curtis’ journey with Rider began at 17 years old when she enrolled to earn an associate degree in secretarial studies. Earning her bachelor’s was always part of the plan, but, as she says, life got in the way. She got married, had three boys and moved farther from Rider. In 1994, she began working as an assistant to financial advisers and found herself back in Lawrence Township. It presented the perfect opportunity to complete her undergraduate degree.

“It was a personal thing to say that I got my degree,” she says. “I wanted to be able to say that I had my bachelor’s from Rider.”

After six years of taking night classes, Curtis could say that she did. In 2011, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in marketing.

“I started Rider in the ‘60s and graduated in my 60s,” she says. “It’s never too late to learn new things or do something that’s on your bucket list. The whole time I was going to school, I met so many people who would say, ‘That’s so wonderful! I wish I could do that.’ And I’d say, ‘Well go ahead and do it then!’ It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.”

Curtis had no intention of walking at Commencement, but after encouragement from her friends — who promised to take her to Atlantic City to celebrate if she did — she donned her graduation regalia and accepted her diploma. She hoped to inspire others to also pursue their education.

“I really always hoped that another older woman or man saw me and said, ‘What’s this old lady doing walking? Well if she can do it, so can I,’” she says.

Curtis has thoroughly enjoyed learning alongside her 20-something classmates, never feeling out of place at Rider. When she was randomly selected to receive a free year’s worth of tuition for providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination, she asked Rider to choose someone else.

“I could have gone back to get my master’s, but I couldn’t knowing that there may be a kid struggling to pay for school or will be when they graduate,” she says. “Let somebody who needs it use it. This will be a good help for them so they can stay in school and earn their degree.”

Instead, she is auditing a class about Bruce Springsteen this fall. After considering all her options this semester, “Bruce won out,” she says.

“I’m hoping I can still take classes 15 to 20 years from now because Rider has enough that would keep me busy for that time,” she says.

This article originally appeared on the Rider university website at rider.edu/about/news.

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