Posted May 21, 2008

A 42-year journey ends as a new journey begins

Bachelor of arts: history

Soon-to-be graduating history major Marc Adelman will be completing his degree after five years of study at Temple.

That might not sound so out of the ordinary — plenty of students have done the “five-year plan” as it’s sometimes referred to. It’s the 42-year long detour between years three and four where things get interesting for Adelman.

“I’m a 68-year-old, so-to-be college graduate!” Adelman said with a laugh. “After 42 years, I’m actually counting the days to graduation — it’s mind-boggling!”

Adelman began his long, strange trip at Temple in the early 1960s in pursuit of a degree in social work.

“It was a great institution to be at; there was so much going on. I got caught up in the social activism of the ’60s, which is what drew me to social work,” the Philadelphia native said. “I did work in the field for about five years after I left Temple.”

Photo by James Duffy/Temple University
History major Marc Adelman was on the five-year plan at Temple. Not out of the ordinary, except for the 42-year gap between years three and four.

In 1966, family responsibilities took him away from his studies, though he said he always assumed he would complete his degree at some point.

In the decades that followed life — which included marriage and raising a family of three boys — took him all over the professional spectrum.

“I was up to a lot of things,” he said with a smile. “I took risks. I ran a 7-Eleven, I had a commercial cleaning company; I did so many things over the years. I raised three boys and have four grandchildren, and one morning two years ago, I literally woke up and asked my wife, Connie, ‘What would you think if I decided to go back to school?’”

Connie, his wife of 40 years this June, said, “Absolutely!”

Adelman had never stopped learning, but said he always felt a little incomplete without a degree. He also wanted to set an example for his children and grandchildren by showing them that “life was not over at 68.”

In his first few days, his professors, fellow students, and advisors helped place him at ease with the full realization that he was right where he belonged.

Given the age gap that separated him from his fellow students, Adelman was initially uneasy. But he soon felt right at home.

“In my third semester, and even toward the end of my second, there was a transition,” he said. “They would come up to me and ask me advice, what I thought about a test — they would talk to me and me to them.”

He also had other worries about returning to school after such a long gap.

“When I started two years ago, I really didn’t know if I’d be able to take a test or take notes or if I could even sit in class,” he said. “I didn’t know if I had the technical know-how — I had only started e-mailing and Googling just a little while before. One of my first instructors asked me if I knew what Blackboard was. I said ‘Sure, where’s the eraser?’”

After completing this 42-year journey, you might think Adelman has accomplished his educational goal. Adelman, however, has been clearly bitten by the education bug.

No longer content with an undergraduate degree, he will be calling Temple his educational home for another few years as he pursues a graduate degree with a goal of becoming a professional archivist.

“The journey’s certainly not over. To borrow a cliché, it’s never about the destination, it’s about the journey,” Adelman said. “Some people judge their lives by great achievements, which has merit. I judge my life by the many small moments.”