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reed magazine logoSpring 2008

Nontraditional Students March Toward Graduation

Terry Lingrey ’09

“I am not a parent,” read the sign around the neck of Terry Lingrey ’09 at freshman orientation. “I wanted to make a statement that I earned my way in by performing academically,” the 43-year-old English major told a reporter for the Quest last year. “That was important, that I be accepted.”

Lingrey, a survivor of violence, developed a stutter that was misinterpreted as a mental defect and interfered with her education. At 40, the stutter lifted. “It was as though someone reached into my throat and pulled it out,” she said in a recent interview. She began taking classes at a local community college in California, was recommended for honors classes, and eventually applied to Reed. “I knew I couldn’t live my life that way any more. I wanted to speak, like I can in conference. That was important in my choice to come to Reed.”

Lingrey is one of ten recipients of the Osher Re-entry Scholarship for nontraditional students. Since 2006, the Bernard Osher Foundation has made annual grants of $50,000 to Reed to replace loans for talented students between the ages of 25 and 50 who demonstrate financial need, have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of five or more years, are pursuing their first bachelor’s degree, and anticipate working for a significant period of time after graduation. Three Osher recipients will graduate in May.

“Most people, by the time they’re 40 years old, have some resources, some assets,” Lingrey explained. “But I’ve been part of the working poor all my life. Reed is practically paying my whole way. I am so grateful.” Lingrey has made sacrifices in order to pursue her degree, including giving away a horse she owned for 17 years. “[It] was really hard to let him go,” she said, “but I thought this was so important, to develop my mind this way.” She has also faced self-doubt about committing to full-time education after so many years in the workforce. “Shouldn’t I be working? I am working, but it’s a different kind of work. I wanted to be somewhere where I could be given the tools to develop as much as I could, as fast as I could. I’m glad I’m actually doing it at this age. I’m more ready and I know what I want.” Lingrey is considering pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing and a Ph.D. in English, concentrating in creative nonfiction, after graduating next year.

Having nontraditional students in the mix can change the dynamic of classroom discussion, said creative writing professor Pete Rock. “At its heart, writing is about communication,” Rock said, “and if we can only communicate with those whose lives are running closely parallel to us, where are we? Of course, they are not here to serve as a learning experience for the young folks, and I think that this productive struggle to communicate is a reciprocal benefit.”

Thomas Drane ’08, a 33-year-old chemistry major, is one of three nontraditional science students receiving Osher scholarships this year. Back in 1994, Drane transferred to Reed from the Florida Institute of Technology, only to find himself unfocused. He soon dropped out. Ten years later, he found himself working as a high-end bike mechanic with various USA Cycling programs. “There were a lot of technical issues and problem-solving that appealed to someone with a science background,” he said, “but the problems were always the same, and some of the problems were very mundane, like, ‘Where can we get our clothes washed in Belgium?’”

Reedie friends Luke Kanies ’96 and Cindy Ellig Kanies ’97 encouraged Drane to reapply to Reed. Looking back as he heads toward graduation this spring, Drane summed up the difference between his first attempt at a degree and his second: “There’s a beer garden this afternoon—I really don’t care. I have a better sense of who I am and what I want. I can remain a lot more focused on what it is I want to do.”

“The [Osher] money has freed me up to work less and take on some extra academic projects,” Drane continued, “presenting my thesis adviser’s research and hopefully a little of my own at an upcoming national meeting of the American Chemical Society—not something I would have been able to do without the extra time the scholarship has allowed me.” Drane will enter a master’s program in chemistry at the University of British Columbia in the fall and hopes to transfer into the Ph.D. program.

Gifts like the Osher grant, endowed scholarships, and Annual Fund gifts directed toward financial aid help to bring the college’s educational opportunities within reach of all qualified students, including those with the broader life experience that often comes with age.

Quest reporter Rebecca Ok ’09 contributed to this story.

reed magazine logoSpring 2008