Back to Class for 1971 Grad
Ken D’Angelo is like a lot of Le Moyne students. He participates in campus traditions. He writes for the student newspaper. He grapples with Elizabethan English in his Shakespeare class and studies water quality in his environmental science course.
There are, however, things that distinguish D’Angelo from his classmates on the Heights. When he attended the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, he was accompanied not by his buddies, but his 6-year-old grandson, Christopher; he christened his weekly column in The Dolphin “The Old Codger’s Corner.” Unlike other students in his classes, D’Angelo isn’t pursuing a degree from Le Moyne. He already earned one – in 1971. What he is pursuing is the simple joy of learning for its own sake.
“This is home,” he says of his alma mater. “This is familiar.”
An English major at Le Moyne, D’Angelo retired in 2012 as a marketing representative for the New York State Lottery. After spending four decades in the workforce, he found himself with an abundance of time, and only so many books and television shows to occupy it. (“I was spending most of my time lounging around the house, reading too many Tom Clancy novels and getting emotionally involved with a Canadian soap opera,” he recalls.) With the support of his wife, Lucille, D’Angelo decided to replace his briefcase with a book-bag. The father or two and grandfather of five started with a computer science class. Since then, he has taken courses in English, history and environmental science. He’s also discovered something about college life that surprised him: “It’s actually better the second time around.”
Professor of Biological Sciences Larry Tanner, Ph.D., teaches North American Ecosystems. He said that D’Angelo is just like every other student in his class –taking exams and writing papers. His willingness to participate in class discussions has actually helped some of his traditional-age classmates to speak up, Tanner said.
“It is rewarding for me, as a faculty member at Le Moyne, to see an alumnus return to the classroom purely out of a love of learning,” said Tanner. “It certainly reflects well on the faculty he had as an undergrad that they instilled this in him, and I hope it is still the norm that our current students develop the same passion.”
In many ways, today’s Le Moyne is different from the one D’Angelo left 43 years ago. That one had no Madden School of Business, Panasci Family Chapel, or Title IX. Its student body was not as large or diverse as today’s; and the technology available to conduct a research paper in 1971 bears little resemblance that which is available now.
Some things remain the same, though. Like D’Angelo, who volunteered as an EMT, firefighter and a confirmation class teacher, today’s students are committed to service. They enjoy making connections in the classroom with things they observe in the real world, just as he did as an undergraduate. And they are full of energy and enthusiasm that remind D’Angelo of him and his classmates.
“They are fun to be with,” he says. “They will joke with you, study with you, argue with you and make you extremely conscious of how old you really are.”