Every year I talk to Chuck Mansfield's freshman agriculture class at Vincennes University. The object is to acquaint them with various topics and choices for careers in agriculture. Many are going back to the farm, but Mansfield still wants them to know about what else you could do in agriculture. My talk typically explains what the world of ag communications is all about.
When I made my annual visit this fall, I couldn't help notice a person sitting in the front row, just to my left, taking notes, which is unusual- most struggle to stay awake- and a man who looked older than me. What was he doing in this class?
"The first day he walked in and I thought he was in the wrong place," quips Mansfield. "But he's taken to the class very well."
The man is James Caudill, and he is older than me. He's 65, and the oldest student Mansfield ever remembers having in a class he taught. Why would someone of that age be doing sitting in a freshman agriculture class?
"I retired from a job after 46 years and I wanted something else to do," Caudill says. "I'm really interested in aquatic studies and fisheries, so I came here to get a background to study that program. I plan to go to Purdue and finish a bachelor's degree in that major once I'm done here." Vincennes is a two-year school which either turns students out trained for various technical jobs, or prepares them to go on to four- year colleges, such as Purdue.
"At first it was a little strange being in a room with all these young kids, but I'm getting used to it," he says. "I live here in an apartment during the week, and go home to Shelbyville every weekend. Caudill has a wife and daughter.What doesn't he want to do when he gets his degree- or as I like to ask the class, what do you want to be when you grow up? "I'm not sure, but we have a small amount of land, and I might want to develop a pond and raise my own fish," he says. "This is fascinating, and it's just something I want to do."