For most people, college is a short-term experience, and often one that they are ready to leave after four years. But there are a few who never want it to end. For them, learning is a lifelong endeavor, a privilege, not a chore. Drs. David Fogarty and Norval Rasmussen are two such lifelong learners.
Both men are Morgantown physicians who have sought to continue their education throughout their careers by taking college courses at West Virginia University. Rasmussen is working on a masters degree in history, while Fogarty prefers to take a variety of classes in history, religious studies and foreign languages.
As an undergrad, I mostly took biology and chemistry classes,Fogarty recalled.I felt like I didnt have a broad background, and I wanted to expand my horizons and become well-rounded academically.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Fogarty attended dental school and then medical school, all at WVU . He has been in private practice as a plastic surgeon for 25 years.
In addition to his studies, he also travels frequently, spending several months a year in foreign countries, volunteering his surgical skills through an organization he founded, Interplast WV. Most surgeries he performs are to fix cleft palates and other facial deformities in children who otherwise would not have access to this level of medical care.
Though the 64-year-old father of seven has been retired for three years, he feels that taking college courses help him to stay young. He also feels that, as a nontraditional student, he brings a different perspective to classes made up mostly of young adults.
Having traveled and gone to school for my whole life, that brings another dimension to class. I also get to do fun things like treating my whole Spanish class to lunch at a Mexican restaurant,he said.
Though he has accumulated more than 400 credit hours at WVU , Fogarty has no plans to work toward another degree.Then Id have to take things I dont want to take,he laughed. He does plan to continue fitting a class or two into his schedule for as long as he can.
Although he takes his classes seriously, one factor certainly sets him apart from his classmates: He never checks his final grade.It doesnt matter,he said.This is about the desire to learn. But of course its hard not to want to look.
Rasmussen, 59, also had a desire to further his education. As a young man, he joined the Marines, and after four years in the Marine Corps, he wanted to hurry through his bachelors degree as quickly as possible. Though he was interested in history, he had no time to take themeatyhistory courses he thought he might enjoy.
He then attended medical school at WVU and served on the staff of local hospitals before starting the private general medicine practice where he still works today. However, he never had the chance to pursue his interest in history.
With guidance from his wife, Barbara, a history professor in WVU s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, he decided to pursue a masters degree in history. His focus is on the history of pre-statehood West Virginia, particularly the postal history of the area. An avid stamp collector, he enjoys learning more about the era from which many of his stamps and old letters come.
Its been great brain exercise. It had been so long since I tackled a problem or explored areas about which I didnt know anything,he said.It was interesting how I used to pontificate on some of my wifes ideas. Then after studying this stuff, I found out she was more accurate than I thought.
The degree requires 24 credit hours and a thesis. Rasmussen has completed 18 credit hours to date and plans to graduate in December 2009. He expects he will retire from medicine within the next five years, giving him more time to spend on his other hobbies�€cabinetry building and gem stone collecting.He also wants to write a book about the postal history of western Virginia.
Though he will soon finish his degree, it is doubtful thatDr. Ras,as he is affectionately known, will end his pursuit of knowledge, if for no other reason than to keep up with his family. His daughter is a surgical resident who holds both a Ph.D. and M.D.; his son is a math professor, and his wife, a history professor.I like to say that in our family of four, there are five doctors.
Reprinted from the Eberly College Magazine, Spring 2008.