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April 22, 2003

Group fosters scholarly pursuits

From: Salem Statesman Journal,OR - Apr 22, 2003

Group members create scholarships for Western Oregon students.

Statesman Journal
April 22, 2003

MONMOUTH — Providing scholarships is one goal for the Western Oregon University Emeritus Society; the other is stimulating the members' minds.

However, intellectual pursuits aren't what has made the group stand out lately.

"I think we are more prominent right now because of the lack of funding for higher education, and we give scholarships," said Dorothy Garrett, liaison between the group and WOU.

All of the group's membership fees go toward the scholarship fund, which provides at least two $500 scholarships each year.

If more members join, the amount could increase.

Each of the 45 Emeritus Society members pays an annual fee of $30.

Ben Polly, 20, is one of the two students at WOU who was awarded a scholarship for this school year.

He is majoring in American Sign Language and English and minoring in health.

The scholarships are awarded based on an essay written by the student.

Garrett said the group also requires that the student be beyond his or her freshman year in college. Polly is a sophomore.

He said he first became interested in American Sign Language in his hometown of Puyallup, Wash.

"I started communicating with the deaf community, and many of them encouraged me to continue," Polly said.

He is in his third year of learning the language and now is sharing his sign language skills by tutoring 7-year-old Kaylee Milholland.

"She is learning basic vocabulary," Polly said. "Her mom, who was in one of my classes, asked me to teach it to her.

"Learning the language creates opportunities for her," he said.

Creating opportunities is perhaps one way of explaining the Emeritus Society's other goal: expanding members' minds.

"It is a different kind of social group," said JoAnn King, co-president of the Emeritus Society. "You don't play cards. People are interested in staying active mentally; it never gets dull."

Inviting speakers to the group's meetings and taking trips to events are a couple of examples of how the Emeritus Society keeps active minds.

Ruth Strand, co-president of the society, said, "In March we had one of WOU's former art professors come in and talk about impressionists, then we went on a trip to the Portland Art Museum."

The Emeritus Society originally was made up of retired faculty members, but when the group found itself with a diminishing membership, it opened itself up to the public.

Garrett said that members now come from varied backgrounds.

Nine are WOU retirees, but being associated with the university is not a requirement for joining the group, nor is living in Monmouth. Members can live anywhere in the vicinity.

"It's one of the most enjoyable groups I've ever been a part of because people don't complain very much," King said. "And that's unusual."

Jody Lawrence-Turner can be reached at (503) 399-6721.

Copyright 2003 Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon