May 21, 2007

A familiar Howard Lake face walks across stage

Marilyn Ringold earned her B.A. degree after life interrupted her first attempt

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

What was started in 1963, but had been interrupted by “life,” has now been achieved – with honors – by Marilyn Ringold of Howard Lake.

Ringold walked across the stage to receive her bachelor of arts degree, with honors, May 3 at a commencement ceremony in Minneapolis.

The degree is in individualized studies from First College through Metropolitan State University.

The focus of Ringold’s degree plan was, “Making a small town a destination.”

“With that, you can help a community develop an identity and create a living atmosphere and the ability to live, work, and play in the town you reside,” Marilyn Ringold explained.

As if graduating with honors at a mature age wasn’t enough, Ringold had been nominated as one of only three students to receive an outstanding student nomination in First College.

Those who know Ringold would expect nothing less from this high-spirited woman behind the Howard Lake Drug Store.

“It’s never too late to pursue a degree. I started my degree in 1963 at Mankato State University, then life got in the way,” Ringold laughed.

“You know, marriage, children, new business, children – moved to rural Howard Lake,” Ringold laughed again.

Born and raised in St. Paul, Ringold moved to Roseville before starting high school, and graduated from Alexander Ramsey High School in 1963.

From there, Ringold attended Mankato State University for two years pursuing a merchandising degree, until her marriage to John in 1966.

“A merchandising degree, today, would translate into a marketing degree,” Ringold said.

Both John and Marilyn’s parents owned cabins on Peavy Lake in northern Minnesota. They had known each other for five years before they got married.

“Oh, those summer romances,” Marilyn laughed.

In fact, “John’s family’s cabin proved deadly for three in John’s family. He and two of his siblings found their future mates on that lake,” Marilyn laughed.

The return to college

“It was just my time. My girls had graduated and now it was my turn,” Marilyn said with a smile.

“I had actually thought about it for 11 years before I started taking classes. I was looking at schools the summer of 2004 and started that August,” Ringold said.

In addition to Internet classes, independent study, and theory classes that were all appealing to Ringold, the university also gave credit for “life experience,” which was a nice fit for her.

The majority of Ringold’s coursework was in marketing and management.

“Most of the students were back in college to get a better job, but some, like me, were on an academic journey,” Ringold said.

“Learning to define an educated person and being a lifelong learner are things you can take with you,” she added.

The hardest part about college was studying for tests and memorizing formulas, Ringold mentioned.

“The best part was being given the opportunity of opening doors and being exposed to good, current literature. Diversity was huge – hearing about other cultures – and having classes where you’re in contact with people from all cultures,” Marilyn said.

The most rewarding experience, Ringold divulged, was being an assistant tutor in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class at the Hubbs Center for Learning in St. Paul.

“You have the whole world in one room – Somalis, Chinese, Japanese, Hmong, Ethiopians, and Latinos. They’re all people just like you and I, they just speak a different language,” Ringold said.

“I would never have sought out the exposure to other cultures if it hadn’t been assigned – not that I would be unwilling before, but the opportunity just had never presented itself,” she explained.

Do I have to grow up?

“Now, what am I going to do when I grow up?” Ringold laughed.

“It’s back to reality. I truly miss not having a deadline to turn in papers or study for an exam, so I’m considering graduate school,” Ringold said.

“It would have to be something I am passionate about, and enjoy doing. My counselor has really been encouraging me to keep going,” she said.

The support of Marilyn’s husband, John, and their two daughters, Jennifer and Julie, was essential to her success.

“I don’t think I could’ve accomplished this without their support and understanding,” Ringold said.

“I don’t know what was more fun, me saying I was going back to school or hearing my daughters tell others, “Guess what my mother is doing?” Ringold laughed.

“What was really funny is that I was older than some of the instructors. I did bring a new dimension to the class,” Ringold added.

Inspirational thoughts

“It’s something you have to want to do. It’s important, if you have the opportunity, to take advantage of going back to college and finishing a degree – it’s fulfilling and respectful,” Ringold said.

“I can honestly say that going back to school is more interesting now than it was in my 20s. It’s more appealing because I could take courses that truly interested me,” she said.

“Of course, there were requirements, but after that it was kind of fun. I really wanted to be there,” Ringold added.

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