October 15, 2019 —Have you ever wished you could go back to school and take all the classes you never had time for as a student? Good news: with the opportunity to audit classes at Washington & Lee University, Kendal at Lexington residents can do exactly that.
We caught up with two residents who have regularly audited classes for nearly 20 years each. Sarah Giddings and Hardin Marion were kind enough to share their experience.
“It’s just so much fun.”
For Sarah, auditing classes has allowed her to study the art history she loved as a college student, as well as a few other choice interests. “I usually do art history, but this year I branched out and did a couple of music history classes — and discovered how little I know about music,” she jokes. “I’ve also taken a few history courses, a few English courses and I took one religion course.”
Sarah has even taken similar classes and topics more than once, particularly a course on the Italian Renaissance. “That particular professor is perhaps the best teacher I’ve ever had anywhere,” she says. “He is just so good that I’d sit in on anything.”
As an auditing student, Sarah doesn’t complete assignments or take tests, but she does do the reading and attend lectures or class discussions. Over time, she’s become friendly with many of the students. “It’s fun to talk to this younger generation. And they don’t seem to mind talking to someone their grandparents’ age,” she says.
The process for auditing a class is actually quite simple, and Sarah says she’s happy to help any residents who may be interested. “All you have to do is get the permission of the instructor, and I can guide anybody on how to do that,” she says. “W&L is really cooperative about doing it.”
Plus, as long as the instructor grants permission, auditing classes is completely free to Kendal residents.
“I would just tell people to do it,” Sarah says. “It’s just so much fun.”
“It’s become a second career for me.”
Hardin Marion recently finished his 19th year of auditing and regularly takes seven classes per year. “I don’t think anybody has audited more classes than I have, ever,” he says. “I take three in the fall, three in the winter and one in the spring term.”
As a retired lawyer, Hardin says he now looks at taking classes as a second career. After initially being invited by a friend who was an English professor, he jumped at the chance. “My wife didn’t know what I was going to do when we moved from Baltimore here to Lexington, and she came close to buying me a set of golf clubs — which would have been a waste of money,” he says. “When I found the joy of auditing, it became a big part of my life.”
With so many classes and years of auditing under his belt, Hardin has dabbled in a wide range of topics and departments. While he began taking English Literature and History classes, he soon expanded to classics, religion, art and music, before challenging himself to try some social sciences, like psychology, sociology and anthropology. “I believe in lifelong learning and I’m a reader,” he says. “And one of the things that auditing classes does for me is it suggests to me books to read that I might not find were I not auditing a specific class.”
Though Hardin has occasionally found that some of the classes he wants to take aren’t accessible to an auditor, he says most of the professors are very open — and often even enthusiastic — to the idea of having him in class. “One professor explained to me that there were two reasons why she appreciated having auditors,” he says. “One, because an auditor, and particularly older folks, bring a different perspective to the classroom; and two, having an auditor in the class sends a message to the students that this is a class well worth taking.” Like Sarah, he’s also struck up friendships with students and hasn’t noticed any hesitancy on their part about having him in class.”
Calling the opportunity to audit “one of the great perks of living in Lexington,” Hardin says he encourages his fellow residents to give it a shot. “It is an experience for me and it’s an enjoyable one,” he says. “Life is good. Kendal makes life good and W&L being right here just adds to it.”