2018-06-13 / Front Page

Age no deterrent to Flora senior

71-year-old earns degree
By Susan Scholl

Laraine MacLauchlan Laraine MacLauchlan At 71, Laraine MacLauchlan is an example, not only that you’re never too old to go back to school but you’re never too old to follow your dreams.

Laraine always intended to earn a degree but life just got in the way, not in a bad way, just sent her in different directions. Earning a degree became a bucket list item.

Laraine did go to college when she was young, the University of Connecticut, but as she describes her experience there, “it was party time!” She dropped out and did not finish college. She started working, got married, had children, became a single mom after her divorce, and after eight years, remarried.

“By then I was always catering to someone else, my husbands’ careers or my kids,” she said. “My dad still encouraged me not to give up on going back to college.”

Shortly after she married her second husband, Doug, he joined the military. She and her children followed him where his career took him. During one of his assignments in Korea she became acquainted with the Army’s Director of Community Services. “The director made me promise I would get my degree. I was 45 by then,” Laraine said.

It may have been the nudge she needed; she didn’t pursue a degree then but kept it in the back of her mind.

Doug was later assigned to Fort Carson in Colorado where they lived for several years before moving to Carroll County. She took a part-time job at the Flora-Monroe Public Library (FMPL) in 2010.

“By then nothing said I needed this degree,” Laraine said, “but I wanted a degree.”

She began researching how to pursue a Library Technical Assistant degree. Ivy Tech State College offers a tuition waiver program for those age 60 and older and with nearby campuses and distance learning, she found what she was looking for as a part-time student. A continuing education scholarship offered by the Flora Chapter of Psi Iota Xi provided two years of funds for books and supplies.

On May 11 at the Kokomo Event Center Laraine received her Associate’s degree. There were 578 graduates and she was one of the last ones to walk across the stage. And as she jokes, the only one on stage with gray hair.

She had family there to cheer her on, including daughter Karen, who had flown in from Colorado, and son, Ed, and his family from Dayton, Ind.

Laraine has two grandsons, Patrick and Evan, who graduated from high school this year. She told both of them, one in Colorado and one in Indiana, that grandma would be bringing her cap and gown to their graduations and to be ready for a photo opt with her.

Laraine can’t say enough good things about her experience through Ivy Tech.

“It was a lot of hard work, but very rewarding,” she said. “My online instructors were very helpful.”

She also credits the support she received from her husband, who sometimes helped her with math, and from her boss, Melissa Bishop, director at the FMPL.

Laraine said it was helpful to have Bishop who could answer questions when she was studying budgeting, cataloging and various other library functions.

Laraine did well in her studies and was initiated into Phi Theta Kappa honor society for associate degree students.

“Laraine started pursuing her degree shortly after starting at the library and she worked hard and kept at it,” Bishop said. “It wasn’t a career move for her, it was a personal thing. She just loves the library and particularly enjoys the challenge of finding materials people want. She has great customer service.”

One of the last things Laraine had to do to earn her degree was to complete a 144-hour practicum. Bishop directed her and filled out her final evaluation. During that time Laraine put together a portfolio of everything she had learned and developed a rotating schedule for FMPL. She also went completely through the local history archives at the library and made sure the information and photos were stored properly and made recommendations for improvements.

“She spent hours and hours on the archives,” Bishop said. “She’s very diligent and thorough. What she’s done is a great benefit to the library and to the community.”

To log her 144 volunteer hours, Laraine often put in two hours of work before and after her library shift would begin. She also went in on Sundays. In the end her portfolio was 285 pages. Of a possible 225 points for the portfolio, Laraine earned 222 points for her work.

About the time and effort it took to earn her degree, Laraine says emphatically, “It was worth it to me!”

She encourages other seniors to pursue their dreams. “It’s not too late,” she says. “Find something you like to do or are interested in and go for it!”

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