« Previous Story | Front Page | Next Story »


Ahoy, Matey!

By Jacinta Faber
Profile | April 21, 2010

YOCEMENTO, Kan. - A storm was brewing in the north, but there was nothing but peace and good cheer around our kitchen table last Thursday evening. My family and I had the privilege of hosting Nola Ochs and her great-granddaughter Janae Ochs for dinner.

I took an Old Testament class with Nola in the fall of 2006, where we first met. It was her first semester as an on-campus student. On the first day of class, we went around and introduced ourselves with a brief bit about why we were taking the class. Nola said that she was interested in the Bible. She tagged on at the end that she was 94.

There were no gasps or applause from the class; instead there were a few indulgent smiles. How quaint that this elderly woman wants to better understand the history of the Bible. Most likely the professor will go easy on her. After all, she's 94 years old. But we soon found out that Nola Ochs was no shrinking violet. She spoke up with thoughtful, relevant remarks, wrote papers and took exams.

Her diminutive stature, around 5 feet, belies her strength. She told us how after her husband Vernon passed away, she and one of her sons would go to town to run errands, and the son would automatically get behind the wheel. After a few times of this, Nola told him to "scoot over" and let her drive.

An inductee in the Guinness Book of World Records for the oldest person to receive a Bachelor's degree, Nola wants the world to know that learning is "fun." She began her adventure in fun eighty years ago, taking a correspondence course in education from Fort Hays State University, which was then known as Kansas State Teachers College. Laughing, she talked about how, when she enrolled in 2006, her advisor called her regarding a typo concerning a date on a previous credit on her transcript. Nola responded that 1930 was indeed correct.

She welcomes publicity. "I enjoy talking to reporters. The media has been good to me. So far, there's been no scandal," Nola quipped. Three years ago, riding the wave of fame after graduating with a Bachelor's, her schedule was so heavily booked that her granddaughter, Alexandra, who was then a senior at FHSU and serving as her volunteer agent, turned down the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Yet she is game for just about anything that comes her way. A morning radio show out of Denver pitted Nola against other callers in a trivia game, which lasted for an entire week. I asked her how she performed. She replied, "Great! I could tell what the correct answer was by the inflection in the DJ's voice."

At the present Nola is busy preparing for "Research and Creative Activity Week" at FHSU. Upon the request of the chair of the history department, Dr. Ray Wilson, she is presenting a paper on piracy. Her project is titled "Ahoy, Matey: Piracy Today and Yesterday." Nola became interested in the subject after reading about an increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. Dr. Wilson is looking for a parrot to perch on Nola's shoulder for the presentation.

Nola, born in 1911, will be awarded her Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) with a concentration in history on May 15th. She reports that she has completed the requirements, which include passing her comprehensive exams. When our daughter pointed out the significance of this achievement, she shrugged it off with "I have done nothing special. I'm just old."

I asked Nola about her plans after graduation. She replied, "I will be taking an online course called 'The History of Ideas' this summer. I scanned the textbook, and it looks interesting. I heard that there were three openings for a teacher's assistantship for the fall. I'm thinking about applying."

[The sketch of Nola is by my friend Tina.]

Post your own comment here


Do you want to read more? You've only just scratched the surface at the Kansas Free Press. We have so much more to read! Nearly all of the pieces published here are timeless and relevant, regardless of when the articles were first published. To discover more, please take a look at our Table of Contents or go back to our Front Page.


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:



About This Page

This page contains just one story published on April 21, 2010. The one written previous to this is titled "Brungardts On Hand As Governor Signs Domestic Violence Tag Bill" and the story published right after this one is "Brownback Coronation is Slipping Away"

Our most current stories are always updated on our Front Page.

Other Archives

Interested in other topics? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents to find other sections and archives.

Do you want to explore pieces written by specific authors? You can find archives for KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Recently Featured Stories

My Response As a Kansan to Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti has come on board The Nation magazine to fill in for Katha Pollitt as the feminist columnist while Pollitt is on leave to write a book. I've found reading Valenti's columns thought-provoking and insightful. She often takes …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word. To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad …
Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine. In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, …

News and Opinion





Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.