Not your average student

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go site Charley and Sheila Pritchett, senior audits at UWF Thame


There is an elderly couple in your class at UWF, and they are not there to teach.

Charley Pritchett plays the trumpet, served in World War II, has taught several college courses, and has attended UWF as a senior audit for 15 years now. Oh, and he is 89 years old. His 79-year-old wife Sheila Pritchett has been by his side at UWF since the start, and has her own impressive list of past achievements.

“We don’t have time for naps,” Sheila said, which sums up the couple’s energetic and playful personalities.

Both have degrees dating back to the 1960s and ’70s, and have consistently taken courses at several different universities for most of their years.

“Quite often you wonder, how good is an education? It introduces you to all sorts of new things, and we learn so much all the time,” Charley said.

Charley and Sheila have taken 35 different courses at UWF since the year 2000, ranging from Women in the Muslim World to Human Sexuality.

It seems unorthodox that an elderly couple would want to sit in on a sexuality course, but the Pritchetts say they learned a lot. Both shared a few stories about this class, but were particularly excited about one involving condoms and allergies.

“This was a night that everyone was handed a rubber penis,” Charley said. All of the students were given condoms to practice putting onto the fake sex organ, but to the Pritchetts surprise, the condoms were raspberry-scented, causing Sheila’s severe allergies to perfume to result in a minor asthma attack.

“It was just like out of a comedy,” Charley said, referring to himself and the teacher chasing Sheila out of the classroom.

The duo of 50 years said they believe living near colleges, and taking courses most of their lives has kept their minds strong. “We even at a point were in school at the same time as our children,” Sheila said. They are referred to as the kids of their retirement community, Azalea Trace, just off campus.

“We like our brains to keep going. We still have a lot of energy, and we don’t have time to slow down,” Sheila said.

Mass Communication’s professor, Dr. Gloria Horning, said that when Charley introduced himself on the first day of class, the class gasped when he mentioned he was approaching 100.

Both attend most of the sports games on campus, and said that being involved is exciting for them. “We love being around younger people, and is that why our minds are still here? Well, I think that maybe it is,” Charley said.

“We get so much from you young people,” Charley said. Sheila added that she never wants to be the old couple that just sits around all day.

“I believe they are inspirational to all the students and to myself. We should all inspire to their goals of being life long learners,” Dr. Horning said.


Jerry Maygarden, Junior at UWF

The Pritchetts may be the oldest, but they are not the only unconventional students at UWF. Sixty- six-year-old Jerry Maygarden came in as a junior, and has begun his first semester as an art major.

“The real energy comes from the people in the class. I enjoy being around young people. It is challenging and thought-provoking,” Maygarden said.  

Maygarden had the same opportunity as the Pritchetts to take classes for free as an audit, but said he likes the challenge of getting the degree, so he enrolled. Unlike the Pritchetts, he must turn in assignments and take exams.

Maygarden has served as mayor of Pensacola, been a city councilman, and also has been a member of the Florida House of Representatives. He received his master’s in c ommunication arts from UWF back in 1974.

The former p olitician returned to UWF because of his appreciation for art, and said he loves to paint. “I want to find a deeper appreciation of things I can fill my day with,” Maygarden said.

Back when Maygarden first attended UWF, the university was a two-year school instead of a four-year. He said this is the biggest change the university has seen since his return, but he also said he feels it is much less intimate than it used to be. The advisers were made up of faculty from the departments at the time, which he said made the experience more personal.

“I don’t like the idea of growing old and not being able to reinvent myself,” Maygarden said.