|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XXII NUMBER 3 FALL 2007|
Do You Believe in Lifelong Learning?
If you're lucky enough to sit down and talk with Selleck Scofield, you will have met the epitome of "perpetual student." He has been learning whatever the world teaches him for nearly 90 years, in fact, and shows no signs of hanging up the ol' notebook, even though he'll be receiving his associate's degree in sciences in December 2007. Truth be told, I wish I were still a student at Keene State, if only to have the chance to be in a class with Scofield. His passion for learning and critical thinking is positively contagious.
Scofield and his wife, Susi, first met in New York, where Scofield was working for the city. "I met her at work, and …" he pauses and chuckles, "she wasn't the first girl I'd gone with, but there was just something about her. You know how that is; everyone does. And my judgment was very good." They have been married for 54 years and have a quiet understanding of each other that is only possible through such time and shared experiences.
Scofield, a member of a National Guard field artillery unit in the 1930s, served in the Army for about five years during World War II. Somewhere along the line, Scofield applied for aviation cadet training in the Air Corps (now the Air Force), which was then part of the Army; he wanted to fly and further serve his country. Scofield was thrilled when he finally got called up as a bombardier. He a nd his crew got shot down over Sweden when their plane got separated from the group in the confusion of cloud cover. Scofield was detained in Sweden for six months, but he said the experience was actually quite pleasant because they weren't held as prisoners – they just couldn't leave the country.
When the war ended, Scofield returned to New York. He retired from his job with the city of New York in 1967 and then worked for three different insurance companies for the next 12 years. During this period, Scofield took a handful of college courses, but the timing wasn't right. "It just wasn't for me at that time," he said. He and Susi bought a house in Peterborough (where they had visited several times), and they have loved it enough to stay.
His career at Keene State began when he found himself at the Keene Public Library three days a week, reading The New York Times from cover to cover, while Susi worked out at the YMCA on Roxbury Street. He decided that he would set his time and mind to taking some classes that interested him at Keene State. The first class he took was philosophy with Charles Hornbeck. "I like philosophy because I like thinking about where we all came from, and where we're all going."
Scofield has such a unique perspective, and such enthusiasm for college classes, that his bright blue eyes sparkle when he talks about his experiences here so far. "College teaches you to think things through in ways that you probably didn't before you went, and it keeps you thinking," he commented as we walked through the Science Building. One thing that he has especially loved about Keene State has been the quality of teaching. "A really good teacher teaches, of course, but also inspires, and brings you into the world of what they're teaching."
One such teacher has been Charles Sheaff, who teaches woodworking, which is also a hobby that Scofield took up at age 75 after retiring. "I have a very strong work ethic," he explains. "I had to do something, so I decided to try woodworking." After several years of working with wood on his own, Scofield took a couple of classes with Professor Sheaff at Keene State. Scofield describes a tilt-top table that he made recently and brought to campus to show Professor Sheaff. His table won approval, due in no small part to its beautifully crafted dovetail joints. He signs his name to everything he makes, which sounds like quite a lot. Susi said, "We're running out of room and won't have any place to put more furniture before long!"
I asked Scofield about the differences between how he works and how the other students he encounters work. For one thing, he mentioned that when students do write, they usually print and do not use cursive writing. "They seem to have lost the art of handwriting," he noted. Although he hands in typed papers, he doesn't use the computer – Susi does. He tells her what he wants his papers to read, and she types. He writes out the technical words (like biology terms) beforehand, so she doesn't have to worry about spelling them right. A true team effort if ever there was one!
Scofield still reads The New York Times from cover to cover each day. He speaks with deep conviction and compassion about politics and humanitarian issues. He truly is a perpetual student and surely inspires everyone he meets to understand that, in this world, there is no shortage of new things to learn, and every situation is an opportunity to do that.
Scofield said, "I always hear students saying, ‘When I get out into the real world.…' No! College is the real world! You have to abide by certain rules, you have responsibilities, and you have to deal with different kinds of people all the time, just like you would in a job. It is the real world. Anywhere you are is the real world!"