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FROM: The Commercial
Appeal, Memphis, Sunday, April 13, 1997
Prime Time, by Bill Thomas
Ex-prof courses her way through
Eunice Ordman, who will be 73 in May, is one for the
Not only has she found marital bliss in her graying
years, she's discovered a way to prevent one's brain from turning to
mush due to advancing age.
After retiring at 65 from her teaching job at the
University of Memphis, she went back to school not as a professor but
as a student - a sort of Renaissance Grandmother with a serious
yen for learning. Now, after seven years of study she's still
cracking the books with gusto.
A former professor of math, physics and computer
science, Ordman has been studying such diverse subjects as The Politics
of China, Persuasive Writing, Color Photography, French Conversation,
Ceramics, History of Jews, and Anthropology of the Family.
Although she handed me a list of more than 25
courses she has taken since her retirement, Ordman kept remembering
others she’d forgotten to mention. So all we can be sure of is that
she's no 4 o'clock scholar - her mind runs around the clock.
"There's no use stopping before you're tired," she
said. "Besides, I believe if you stop
learning new things, in some respects you have died." A native of New
Jersey, Ordman's academic life began in the days when women were
expected to do their "homework" in the kitchen, not the college library.
"When I was going to Rutgers University; I was the
only female graduate student in the entire physics building," she said.
"The following year, there was one other woman there, but she dropped
out after a couple of months. No matter. "My fellow students treated me
like one of the men."
Ordman believes she inherited her academic curiosity
from her grandfather. "He was in the lumber business, but he was always
studying. When I was 5, he was just getting into psychology. Like him,
I was born curious. I think curiosity is in the genes."
Ordtnan worked part time as a chemist during World
War II, then taught a year at the University of Idaho. She was married
in 1947, but three years later that marriage came to a shattering and
"I was driving the car when we were hit by a
furniture van," said Ordman, whose husband was killed in the crash. She
was thrown 75 feet from the point of impact and later bandaged from
head to toe to begin a painful recovery.
It had been a short, happy marriage that produced
one child. Her second marriage, however, was long and dismal.
"It was an unhappy marriage from the start," said
Ordman, who bore four more children over the next 18 years. (She now
has 10 grandchildren and is expecting another.) "In those days you
didn't terminate marriages, no matter how bad they were. Since I
couldn't find happiness with my husband, I tried to find it with my
children, which I did. But finally, I divorced (No.2) in 1971."
Ordman went back to school, and, as she was leaving
a computer class, fell victim to another disasterous accident. "I
was walking to the parking lot, carrying my books and papers,
when I was run over by a motorcycle," said Ordman, who must have begun
wondering if she was one of those people fate continually picks on.
In 1983, however, Ordman's luck changed. That's when
she married her third husband, Edward Ordman, a graduate of Princeton
and a professor of computer science at the University of Memphis.
"No marriage counselor ever would have said we ought
to get married," said Mrs. Ordman, laughing. "For one thing,
there's the age difference: He's 20 years younger than I am. For
another, he was an Orthodox Jew and I was a liberal Northern Baptist.
One of the things that impressed me, however, was the wonderful variety
of books he had. I like people with wide interests, and this was
reflected by his library. Also, we both love to travel, and we
have seen much of the world.”
The couple were married shortly before they moved to
Memphis, and Mrs. Ordman remembers the way it was: “I had a new house,
a new job, a new computer and a new husband,” she said, noting that the
marriage fulfilled a kind of prophecy made more than 30 years earlier.
“My first husband once told me if he should die, I
ought to marry a college professor. I did, and he was right. I
have this theory: that the end of life should be the reward for all the
punishment of the earlier parts of it. I think these years should be
the frosting on the cake. And for me, that’s where it is right now.”
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