FOR MOST STUDENTS, college is a four-year journey. For Yaant Best ’22, it took a bit longer — 52 years longer, in fact.
Hers was a meandering, on-and-off journey through seven institutions of higher learning that began in 1966 and culminated in June 2022 with a triumphant walk across the stage to shake the hand of SPU’s Interim President Pete Menjares — to the tune of a standing ovation and thunderous foot stomping. “I was kind of shocked,” she said. “Everyone stood up and started pounding their feet. It was an inspiring afternoon.”
The smile on her face tells the story.
What did Best do in those intervening years before finishing her degree? She learned German, French, and, most recently, Swedish. She and her husband took the time to travel to Europe more than 20 times to hike in the fall and ski in the winter with ski patrol friends. (She is making plans now to hike in Scotland.)
No academic slouch, Best usually enrolled in one college class each year throughout most of her adult life. Her epic educational journey took her through several majors, including chemistry, biochemistry, organizational behavior, and, ultimately, general studies.
By the time she came back to SPU for the last time in the spring of 2022, she had amassed almost enough credits to graduate, but her transcripts bespoke a confused jumble of courses that would have confounded most academic advisors.
Instead, Academic Counselor Annette Rendahl said, “No problem. Let’s just get you into a basic humanities class and finish off your bachelor of arts degree.” Speaking of Rendahl, Best said, “She was very positive. She’s just such a great person. I want to continue our friendship.”
Best still can’t quite believe she finally did it. “Every day I say to myself, ‘I’ve completed my degree. I’m really done.’”
Now in her 70s, Best is setting her sights on graduate school. “I’m thinking maybe something to do with teaching.”
Her final class, “Exploring Music,” provided an overview of music from Gregorian chants to soul, taught by Adjunct Instructor of Voice Julie Kae Sigars. “The age difference was more noticeable this time,” Best said. “It was a 200-level class, and most of the students were barely sophomores.”
According to Sigars, Best was a shining light in the class despite being the oldest by decades. “Walking with Yaant through this last class was a delight. I loved being instrumental in reviving in her the joy of learning for its own sake and assuring her that ‘all shall be well.’”
Best has advice for older students: “It’s so important to persevere, to have the determination to finish. When I’m doing something hard, I hold onto a mental picture of, ‘Believe. Achieve.’”
Photo by Mike Siegel