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SCCC sees new crop of college seniors

Barbara and Tom Rider aren't your traditional college sweethearts.

The Riders, both 65, are married and live in Niskayuna. They have two grown children, and both are retired.

But, every Tuesday and Thursday, the Riders have a night out. They don't go to the movies, or out to dinner or to the bingo hall; they go to the classroom.

Twice a week, the couple attends an honors course titled The American Presidency at Schenectady County Community College as part of the college's senior citizen auditors program, which allows county residents ages 60 and older to sign up for one tuition-free class each semester during late registration.

"We take whatever sounds fun," said Barbara.

Both of the Riders attended college in their younger years and went on to lengthy careers with the state.

Tom was a personnel director for the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Barbara worked for the state Department of Health and Agriculture.

Now in their retirement, they are taking advantage of their community's association with SCCC.

The Riders said their current class is enjoyable because of its relevance to current events and because it's taught by one of their favorite professors, David Hennessy, associate professor and chair of the business and law department.

"He's brilliant," said Tom. "He'll lecture for a whole class without any notes."

Professor Hennessy has a fondness for the Riders as well.

"It's nice to have someone closer to my age in the class," said Hennessy, who noted that he's had several seniors audit in his courses. "Sometimes the 1960s sound like ancient history to my students, but for me and Tom and Barbara, we were there."

Hennessy said the Riders often stay after class and ask questions about the day's lecture. He said the couple has a predilection for current events, a major topic of the course, which tracks the current presidential campaign and relates it to American history and political science.

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