Anderson University senior finishing degree after 50-year lapse

Tue, 2009-12-22 15:00 -- univcomm
December 22, 2009

Gail Brant begins her Mondays just like any Anderson University undergraduate student. She wakes up, checks her e-mail, and crams in some last-minute studying before heading to Hartung Hall for her 10 a.m. biology class. She then makes her way down to Café Ole before heading back to Hartung for her noon philosophy class. Brant wraps up the day on the third floor of Decker with introductory algebra. Then she’s on her way home to study, read, and work on assignments for the next day’s classes.

Aleza Beverly and Gail Brant at the Anderson University School of Adult LearningBrant may start her week like the any other college student, but something separates her from the typical undergrad student … about 67 years.

Brant, an 87-year-old English major with a 4.0 GPA, is scheduled to graduate this May — 68 years after she graduated from nearby Lapel High School. Brant had always wanted to go to college, but as she says, “life interfered.” Soon after graduating from high school she got married, had children, and started her career at General Motors. “I thought, ‘Boy, I’m rich,’” she says. “I was making $19.80 a week.”

[PHOTO: Gail Brant (right) with Aleza Beverly, dean of the Anderson University School of Adult Learning]

Brant’s love for writing and learning led her to attend night classes on AU’s campus, where she acquired 41 credit hours. In the years since those first classes in 1958, ten U.S. presidents have come and gone. Yet, those credit hours still transferred and became the building blocks to Brant’s pursuit of a genuine college experience when she re-enrolled through the Anderson University School of Adult Learning three years ago.

Brant was not sure what to expect when she first met with the School of Adult Learning staff, but her uncertainties were quickly relieved. "The receptionist greeted me warmly and introduced me to Natalie Edwards [assessment counselor] and to Dean Aleza Beverly," she recalls. "I have never walked into the office since, in the fours years  I have been coming, without being greeted with smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement."

Brant is still on track for her English degree. Dr. Scott Borders, professor of English, has had Brant in four of his classes. “I noticed from the start that she was very driven to do well,” he says. “She always wanted feedback on her work and to know how to improve. She is an ideal student, and I wish all students were like her.”

Brant is a part of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, and writes for the campus literary arts magazine.

Despite her love for learning, life as a student has not always been easy for Brant. Getting used to computers and other new technologies have presented challenges.

“We did not have the sophisticated equipment that we have today,” says Brant. “Back in high school, I took biology and we only had one microscope for the whole class.”

When Brant signed up for a Spanish class, she was astounded when the teacher told them to turn on the computer. “I did not know how to turn on the computer, so I got out of that class until I learned the computer,” she says. Her youngest daughter has been helping her learn the basic computer skills necessary for college. Now, Brant is using the computer to communicate via e-mail and is even learning to scan and send documents from her home computer.

Brant has inspired many people to push obstacles aside and reach for seemingly unattainable goals. “When a lot of people that age just want to sit on the porch and rock,” Borders says, “she still entered a world that was not particularly set up for her and said ‘I’m here to make my mark on it.’”

— Aaron Vogel is a senior from Fairmount, Indiana, majoring in communication arts with a minor in marketing. Vogel is an associate with Fifth Street Communications writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.