Fifty years of college

Posted on 12 November 2014 by admin

Student Jinny Gender follows her passions, continues taking classes during retirement

Jinny Gender

Jinny Gender

Staff Writer

Jinny Gender is on her 50th year of taking college courses. Starting out in 1964 at STLCC-Florissant Valley, Gender balanced work, a home life with three kids and a husband while concentrating on her studies.

She has taken painting, drawing, French, German, English, tap dancing, tennis, yoga, golf, math and music classes through the years she has been going to STLCC.

“At 25 I was married with three kids, age three, four and five. I was a freshman for nine years because I could only take a class one at a time,” Gender said.

She grew up with parents who did not go to college. She said in the 1950s, college was not usually heard of for families and her parents did not want to pay for her education. At age 27, Gender said she had no one encouraging her to go to school except for one woman – her child’s teacher. The teacher told her about an opportunity to substitute teach with a minimum of 60 credit hours.

“I was so moved that she asked. Nobody else was encouraging me to go to school. I went right up to Flo Valley and enrolled,” Gender said. “The fifties were a weird time — you were supposed to look pretty and get married, but everyone I knew was going to college, I just knew I had to go. I was smart and did very well in high school. It was really a driving force.”

After her time at STLCC-Florissant Valley, Gender moved to Kirkwood with her family in 1967. It was then she started at STLCC-Meramec to earn her Associate of Arts degree. She said she started school around the time the Meramec campus was first built. The campus had a similar design to the current one, but she said many things were different.

She said there were no automatic doors or elevators. Telephones were placed high on the walls and there were many disabled veteran students.

“It became a custom to look behind you and if you saw somebody who needed to have the door held for them you’d stop and let them in. There was a culture of friendliness here that I had rarely seen anywhere else,” Gender said.

With so much change in politics and society during the years, Gender said she became involved with the campus life by starting a group called “Meremac Women.”

“We got involved in the feminist movement, civil rights movement, the issues of veterans and black students. At that time, hierarchical structures were not popular,” Gender said. “We had steering committees [that] had maybe five people on the committee and they made decisions on their other committees. We wanted a feminist organization and realized it was key to get on the Student Activities board to get money appropriated to the women for sports and feminist literature.”

Graduating from Meramec with her Associate of Arts degree in 1974, Gender said she continued to Lindenwood University in St. Charles. She was awarded a grant called ‘Women Graduates of a Junior College with Leadership Potential’ and graduated from Lindenwood in 1976 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.

Gender said she became involved in a lot of social work and volunteer work over the years, having been a member of state, national and local volunteer boards. One of the boards she was on was a radio station called WGNU. She said during the fifteen years she was there, she met a lady named Nancy Bikson with whom she had started a business called International Charity Consultants with another lady named Barbara Enneking. She said it was a business they had started in England, which helped nonprofit organizations, such as healthcare related charities and college alumni groups. For the past 25 years she said she travels to London every year with her business partner, Barbara Enneking, to discuss business with her clients.

Retired and living with her husband in Kirkwood, Gender said she and her husband travel a lot because they can.

“I’ve been to Iceland, New Zealand, and all around the United States,” Gender said.

As a hobby she said she enjoys taking care of bees, harvesting honey, after seeing her son take care of two bee hives, she said she and her husband decided to take care of a few on their own.

“We’ll end up taking 100 pounds of honey out of the hives, a year. We keep some for personal use and end up selling the rest,” Gender said.

She said she enjoys staying active, spending time with her children and grandchildren, along with her two dogs, and is continuing to take classes every year at STLCC-Meramec, but does not take classes for a grade anymore.“This year I’m in my third year of Advanced Piano Workshop and I’m also taking Tai Chi,” she said.

She said her academic career has no plans of stopping and would like to try taking Spanish again. She suggests to students who are struggling in school, a few words.

“You have to give it a shot,” Gender said. “But college isn’t for everybody. There are other things to do. Do what you feel passionate about. If you feel passionate about school then by all means go.”


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