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89 year-old student has audited courses for over 20 years

By RAVEN JACKSON | Staff Writer

Mildred Frensley has been discovering the world of philosophy through courses at APSU for over 20 years.

She has audited almost all courses in the department and some more than once.

“This isn’t something that just developed in my older age,” Frensley said, “even when I was younger I always had an interest and a bend toward this kind of stuff. When most kids were out gallivanting around I was out reading Plato’s ‘Republic.’”

Frensley’s dedication and interest to philosophy for many years prompted the department to present her a departmental honorary Doctor of Metaphysics.

“I was awestruck, that they would think enough of me to do it.”

Frensley was 67-years-old when she first began taking philosophy courses at APSU. She transferred from the Renaissance center with her granddaughter to APSU in 1988. They both enrolled in the critical reasoning and logic course where Frensley first met Albert Randall, who soon became a mentor and friend.

“During the next 22 years, she took almost every course in our Philosophy program and was a straight ‘A’ student. The greatest experience a teacher can have occurs when a student becomes the teacher, and the teacher becomes the student. Mildred’s penetrating questions and sense of humor made every class she took a much richer class because of her presence,” Randall said.

Frensley compares her approach to ideas to the way raccoons wash their food in the river before eating it.

“That’s the way ideas come to me. I take them and I feel them around and I wash them and I hold them up and look at them. I visualize myself as being like a little raccoon,” Frensley said through laughter.

Even though Frensley would not receive credit for the philosophy classes she observed, she still did the work professors assigned.

“Every paper she wrote for a class, and she is a superb writer, made me think. So often, reading her papers and responding to her insightful questions in class, she became my teacher,” Randall said.

Randall asked Frensley to read the first drafts of three of his books. “Her comments, suggestions and grammatical corrections made such a contribution to the final draft of the book, I probably should have listed her as a co-author.”

Frensley is mentioned by Randall in the acknowledgements section of his book, “Holy Scriptures as Justifications for War.”

Frensley does not see her life as out of the ordinary. “I’ve always hesitated to think of myself as being different. I’m just like everybody else. But yet, I don’t find very many people like me that have my interests.”

“I was only able to do all this because of the influence of two wonderful men in my life who had the most influence on me. One of them was my husband who put up with me, supported me, [and] loved me for 62 years. And the other was Dr. Randall, who put up with me, encouraged me, broadened my horizons [and] expanded my understanding,” Frensley said.

She has made several study abroad trips to England with several professors. “I think everything that I’ve done educationally and travel wise has added to a more understanding personality. I think I’ve grown a little.”

Frensley believes coming to class and learning is fun and she will do it as long as she feels she is able to.

“I’m always seeking. Not that I ever think that I’m going to find the truth, I don’t even know what that means.” TAS

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