August 30, 2007

Hitting the books at 90 New Sacramento State student is University’s oldest

Estelle Rees-Arroyo Estelle Rees-Arroyo

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Estelle Rees-Arroyo is one of Sacramento State’s new students. She’s also the University’s oldest student, having celebrated 90 birthdays.

A resident of Grass Valley, Rees-Arroyo is taking three classes for nine units this fall after earning her associate of arts degree from Sierra College in Grass Valley last spring.

The spry nonagenarian was recently working her way through the registration process, joining Sacramento State through its Sixty Plus Program, which provides a fee waiver for senior citizens. Staff in the University’s re-entry services can’t recall any former student who comes close to 90, re-entry counselor Vince Pantalone says.

Why did Rees-Arroyo decide this was the time to finish her education?

“I just felt it was a good idea not to let my mind get moldy,” she says. That sentiment was reinforced by the four months she spent in a retirement center while her house was being completed. “People were very nice, but it was pretty boring.”

Rees-Arroyo is majoring in history with an emphasis on American history because it’s so fascinating. America has accomplished a great deal in such a short time, she says, and created a Constitution used as a model by other nations. “I don’t think any other country could match that,” she says.

Her own family history could be used for several textbook chapters.

One of her grandfathers came to California during the Gold Rush, taking a ship from Boston when he was 17, then crossing the Isthmus of Panama on a mule. When he sailed into San Francisco Bay, Rees-Arroyo says, the harbor was filled with 400 ships and the masts looked like a forest.

A native of Berkeley, Rees-Arroyo remembers when the Bay Bridge was constructed 71 years ago. She watched the barges deliver the construction material for the span’s pylons. And she speaks fondly of the commuter ferry that the bridge replaced. The morning boat trip offered breakfast.

Rees-Arroyo also has a firm grasp on world affairs, having traveled the globe while married to her late husband Carlos, who was a civil engineering graduate from Cal and worked in the oil industry. The couple lived in Venezuela and the Middle East, and visited India, Japan, Cambodia, and other countries during their time together.

The new student will commute to Sacramento four days a week from her Grass Valley home, but will spend some nights in the capital. “Back and forth, it comes to about 140 miles, and that’s taking up a lot of study time,” she says.

Rees-Arroyo has nothing but praise for Sacramento State and the people here. “I feel it a privilege to come to a University that has such a wonderful faculty, a beautiful campus and a variety of courses.”

For more information on the Sixty Plus Program, call (916) 278-3901 or visit http://webapps1.csus.edu/admr/content/admission/reentry. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.