“Now that I have passed college Algebra, I can do anything”

Algebra can often seem like a insurmountable obstacle in education and career, but it’s never too late for the way to open up. At our friend Ed Burger’s inauguration as President of Southwestern College, I met Carolyn Holloway, who not only passed college algebra after 40 years, but found a new sense of possibilities in life. Here’s her story:

Life sometimes can interfere with progress toward a goal, but I never gave up on the dream. I completed my freshman year at Meredith College, Raleigh, NC in 1955………….and graduated in 2000 from Lyon College, Batesville, AR. The following are excerpts from my daily journal:

Enrolled in remedial math at Dallas Community College. Algebra class cancelled so I had plenty of time to pack to leave for Australia/New Zealand. Arrived Auckland, flew to Christ Church then to Queensland. Rented a car and headed for Glenorkey and the Kiwi Style Lodge. The paved road ended in 10 km. The dirt road began and had several washed out places. The Hana Road in Hawaii was only worse because it was more windy. Arrived safely at Wakepter Lake. The Lake rises and falls about 12″ each day. The Maori legend says a giant sleeps in the lake and it is him breathing. Technically it may be the mixing of warmer streams flowing into lake causing it to rise and fall. Our hosts at the fishing lodge are nice and congenial but told me there was no high school there that taught math. However, the nice host found a tutor in Queenstown—a Mr. Mike Holloway at the Otega Poly Tech School. Heaven knows if I will ever understand exponents. On March 17 I made the trek back to Queenstown for algebra. It’s really difficult. The road is really rough. The floods did a number on the road but locals plan to put in bridges before winter. We just drove through the streams. Nice people everywhere.

March 29. Back in the U.S. School. Lots to catch up. I took the logarithm test today. We shall see what we shall see.

April 4. Extra Algebra class.

April 6. Got a tutor hopefully. Worked on Algebra all day.

April 7. Passed Logarithm test barely – a 75. Whew!

April 10. Homework and taxes.

April 26. Went to hear Hillary Clinton speak to the Hollywood Radio & TV Society. She is good but her health plan is a disaster.

May 6. My Algebra test took 3 hours. I was too tired to go over it.

May 10. Studied all day. Took Algebra final exam. Yeah! What a relief. That was just high school level Algebra.

August 30, 1999. Lyon College Batesville, AR. Classes are keeping me running around. Homework, homework, homework. Tests. tests. tests!

December 27, 1999. Depart for Millenium Trip Around the World. Studied some.

January 20, 2000 Arrived home in a snow storm. The professors at Lyon seemed as committed to seeing me get a Art History degree as I was. No one seemed more relieved than my wonderful Algebra professor (unless it was my P.E. coach) when I at last succeeded in accomplishing that one last exam in Algebra. I do know that the professor notified the President that I had passed before I was able to walk across campus and bring him the news myself. He even sent me flowers. My son noted that he could assure me that many people passed and failed Algebra exams, but that I might be the only person who got flowers from the president. I remember saying to Walter, “Now that I have passed college Algebra, I can do anything.” I also repeated that statement whenever my husband disagreed with a decision I made. I always teased him saying I have a college degree so we have to do it my way. And guess what? It worked.

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