If there were a fan club for the County College of Morris (CCM), 90-year-old Ruth Gales would be the president. She has been taking courses at the college for several years, ever since she moved to Randolph from Manhattan.
"When I first moved to Jersey, I hated it," she says. "Then I got this booklet in the mail from CCM and I decided to go—and I love it!" Up until four years ago, Gales lived and worked in New York City. She had an apartment in Greenwich Village near New York Univeristy and enjoyed the diversity and pace of New York. So when she moved out to Randolph to live near her daughter, culture shock set in. She was bored.
"When I graduated from high school in 1932, I went to Pace Institute before it became a college," Gales says. She studied accounting, but never got a degree. It was the Great Depression and she had to work. Gales continued working until she was 84, so was used to having an active mind and spending her day among other active people. Enrolling as a student at CCM allowed her to do that again.
In addition to attending classes, Gales volunteers at the CCM Student Center on Thursdays and Fridays, doing filing and other clerical work. "I love it there; it’s the greatest place," she says. "I like being around the youngsters. One of the young boys there tore a page out from a pad where he drew a heart and wrote ‘I love Ruth—Nicki.’ Getting along with all the kids is important, and I do. When I get there, I get big hugs; when I leave, I get big hugs. I love them all."
This semester, Gales is taking a course in cultural geography, which is part of the sociology curriculum. "Every teacher I’ve had has been better than the one before," she says. "I’m just taking courses, but I understand they want to give me a degree."
What would she do with that degree? "I’m 90. I have no plans. I just want my family to be well. Learning new things keeps your mind going."
Gales says she will continue taking courses at CCM "as long as I’m alive."
Her advice to other senior citizens is to do the same. "It is important to keep learning because it keeps your mind working and it lets you view things in a different way entirely. Also, it’s wonderful to be with the youngsters. It keeps you alert and happy."