Student earns 300 hours of ‘happiness’

Jayson Lowery, Staff Writer

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Donald C. Ross gets up in the morning like other students. After getting dressed, brushing his teeth and combing his hair, he prepares for another day at college. Unlike many students here, he is married and has children.

Also, unlike most students, he is 73.

For close to 18 years of his life, Ross has been in a Henderson classroom. Long after earning a bachelor’s degree in petroleum geology and a master’s in petroleum engineering, he has accumulated around 300 credit hours in various fields of study.

“It’s great. I get to take interesting classes that I never got to take when getting my degrees,” Ross said. “They were more technical and to the point.”

His college career began at Ouachita Baptist University at the age of 16. During World War II, it was possible to take a test that allowed you to take college courses and high school courses at the same time. This way, one could finish their education before being shipped off to Europe.

“My freshman year was the first year football was reintroduced, so I actually played college football at 16.” (OBU did not have a football team during the 1943-44 seasons because of World War II.)

In his years, he has seen and done many things. He worked for Schlumberger, an oil field service between Germany and France, and has been everywhere from Houston to Nigeria, 38 countries in all, even teaching in South Korea.

After retiring at age 54, he was able to pursue his love of history and archeology, participating in over 40 digs. He visited Peru in 1995 on an Incan civilization dig and also aided an archeological dig on the island of San Salvador were Christopher Columbus first set foot on American soil. Ross has been on two digs at Arkansas Post and is taking a part in the HSU site at Magnolia Manor.

So why does a man who has experienced so much in his life continue to go to school for so long? Because he wants to remember his life.

Ross has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This disease slowly takes away a person’s memory. It usually occurs in the later years of a person’s life.

“I take medicine that helps me, but I figure if I do something that makes me use my mind all the time, it can only help,” Ross said. “It seems to be working so far. I only have a few problems with forgetting words.”

Seeing Ross in class is a wonder in itself. He dresses in business attire and is always sharing some new information he has discovered about a class-related topic. He also has a sense of humor, sharing jokes he finds amusing with professors. When giving a class presentation, he never takes notes up to the podium. Instead he does it all from memory.

With just a short time spent with Ross, it is easy to see that he is one of a kind. Humor, wit and shining charisma make him an asset both as a classmate and a friend. This 19-year student of HSU has discovered what so many others never do:

Life is precious no matter what hardships come with it.

Happiness is worth the battle.

Keep it up Mr. Ross, and we’ll see you in class.