May 13, 2011
Mike Law will be the senior member of the senior class when he marches at Commencement on May 16.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Mike Law gets up each morning at about the same time many of his classmates are heading off to bed — right around 3 a.m. Of course, the senior religious studies major doesn’t quite fit the profile of the “typical” student at The College of Wooster.
Law began his studies at Wooster a little over four years ago at the age of 50, but while he’s old enough to be a father to his classmates, his youthful energy and his passion for learning enables him to fit right in.
The reason for Law’s unusual routine has more to do with personal preference than a rejection of the traditional student lifestyle. “I used to have to travel 50 miles to get to my job, so getting up very early became a habit,” says Law. “I’ve also found that my mind functions much better early in the morning, so I have more success reading, studying, and writing papers at that time.”
Law’s odyssey began in the fall of 2006, shortly after meeting and marrying Elys Kettling, reference and instruction librarian at the College. “She asked if I would like to take some classes at Wooster (through her tuition benefit plan),” he says. “I had worked all my life and taken a few college courses here and there, but I never really had the money to think about attending college full time. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I am very thankful for the second chance.”
As a first-year student, Law figured that he would try to blend in, but at one of the first orientation gatherings, Carolyn Buxton, senior associate dean of students, spotted Law sitting among a group of newbies and politely rushed over to escort him out. “She asked if I would like to join the parents in the other room,” he says. “When I told her that I was actually a student, she smiled and said, ‘Great, we’re glad you’re here.’”
That was one of several awkward moments for the senior member of the senior class, but the majority of his experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. “Everyone has been very helpful and encouraging,” he says. “The professors and the students have been especially supportive.”
Law has long had an interest in ministry, and is currently going through the United Methodist Church’s candidacy process. After graduation, he plans to continue that pursuit and may attend seminary.
As for his Wooster experience, Law says it has touched a lot of emotions. “It’s been great. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of different faiths and cultures. It has been wonderful to be exposed to so many people with so many different backgrounds across campus.”
Not only has Law benefited from the educational opportunity, but he has also profited from the personal development. “My confidence has really grown,” he says. “I’ve learned how to write and communicate much more effectively.”
While Law admits that he still occasionally feels out of place, he has been deeply moved by the support he has received, especially from the students. “They want me to join them at commencement,” he says. “That means a lot.”
Law’s story has also been an inspiration to others. “I had one student tell me that she was going to encourage her father to go back to school and get his degree after hearing about my situation,” he says. “I’m glad that my experience might influence others.”
Law’s journey has not been an easy one. He has struggled with the foreign language requirement, and still has one more course to complete, but it’s all been worthwhile. “When I finally receive my degree, I don't know if I will even be able to describe my emotions,” he says. “I’m sure it won’t really sink in until much later.”
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