Friday, December 15, 2006
He may have earned his degree, but he plans to continue taking classes.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Shortly after his wife died of cancer in the summer of 2002, Robert Coller Sr. found himself walking through the Eastwood Mall -- contemplating his past and his future -- when he noticed Youngstown State University's Metro College site.
He stopped to take a look at what the program had to offer, and, after a short visit, he learned about YSU's College for the Over Sixty.
His life hasn't quite been the same since.
"I'm not the kind of person to sit at home and watch 'Oprah' or go to the mall and drink coffee all morning," said Coller, of Howland, who retired in 2001. "So I was just trying to fill some time by taking a class or two."
Four years later, Coller has enough credits through the Over Sixty program to earn a bachelor of arts degree in earth science.
He will receive his diploma at YSU's fall commencement at 2 p.m. Sunday in Beeghly Center.
"It has been a tremendous experience," he said. "I've met so many wonderful people. It's a great program, and it's been very rewarding."
The Over Sixty program, authorized by the Ohio General Assembly in 1999, waives tuition charges for Ohio residents age 60 or older who enroll in regular college credit courses at YSU. Enrollment is on a space-available basis, meaning that any remaining seats are made available after regular undergraduate and graduate students have enrolled.
Between 65 and 100 people register each semester for the program.
Coller graduated from Hubbard High School and served six years in the Army before earning an AAB degree in business from YSU in 1974 under the G.I. Bill. After working 18 years at Republic Steel, five years at Packard Electric and 14 years at Carlisle Engineered Products, Coller retired.
He enrolled first in an accounting and a physical geology class in the Over Sixty program, and shortly thereafter met Jeff Dick, YSU associate professor of geology and environmental sciences.
"He's been my pal and my mentor ever since," Coller said. "He just took me under his wing."
Coller, who said he always had an interest in geology, has accompanied Dick and other students on four research trips to the Bahamas, has conducted research on land forms in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and works regularly at the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum in Moser Hall on campus.
"He's meant so much to all of us in the geology department," Dick said. "So much that I kind of hate to see him graduate."
Dick said Coller has naturally assumed a fatherly -- or even grandfatherly -- role with the students in the department. "I do not know a single student who doesn't absolutely love Bob," Dick said.
Coller said working with the younger students -- even playing pool at one of the local fraternity houses -- has been an inspiration. "I've got so many 22-year-old friends," he said. "The world worries about kids today. Well, they don't have to worry. These kids are great, at least the kids at YSU."
Coller's son, Robert Jr., and daughter-in-law, Patty, also graduated from YSU, and youngest daughter, Renee, attended YSU. Daughter Robin graduated from Kent State University.
Coller said he plans to continue to take classes.
"I'm a permanent student now," he said.
Spring semester registration for the Over Sixty program will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Metro College in Southwoods Commons in Boardman. For more information, call (330) 941-2465.