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86-year-old earns biblical studies diploma

EMPORIA, Kan. (BP)–Want to live longer? Then take some Seminary Extension courses.
That’s the advice of Blanche Finney of Emporia, Kan., who at age 86 earned her diploma in biblical studies. “Taking these courses keeps me alive,” she often tells Vance Veazey, director of the Blue Stem Baptist Association Seminary Extension Center where her classes are offered.
In the process of “staying alive” Finney has also learned a great deal about the Bible.
When asked to explain exactly how taking Seminary Extension courses keeps her alive, Finney has a quick answer. “When your mind quits working, you’re the same as dead, aren’t you?”
While she doesn’t say fellowship with other students has lengthened her life, she knows the camaraderie with classmates has helped make her long life worth living. “I enjoy studying the books of the Bible,” she said, “but my biggest joy may be the fellowship with others in the classes.”
Finney took her first class, “How to Understand the Bible,” at the Blue Stem Center in 1988. It took her eight years to complete the 16 courses required to earn a diploma in biblical studies.
Even though she has her diploma, Finney has not stopped learning. This fall, when the Blue Stem Center offers a class on “Ministering to the Terminally Ill,” she’ll be there. “I may just audit that class,” she said, “so I don’t have to do the papers and take the tests. I’ll just soak up knowledge that can be helpful.”
Actually, she admitted, she will be biding her time until the next semester when she’ll have the chance to study another book of the Bible. “Then I’ll enroll as a regular student again,” she said.
When asked why she took the first class, Finney replied, “Maybe, because I was bored. Also, because I had the opportunity. And Vance Veazey influenced me, too.”
Today she recommends Seminary Extension classes to pastors and other church leaders, and especially to lay members such as herself.
Some of the extension classes were taught in her home, with the students sitting at her dining table. When classes were at Fellowship Baptist Church, where Finney is a member, Veazey provided her transportation. Of his persistent pupil, Veazey said, “She always has her point of view and she likes discussion.”
Finney lives alone, across the street from Emporia State University. Often she has students staying in her home, girls from Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines — many taking library science. She witnesses to them by example and they affectionately call her “Grandma.”
As for her involvement at Fellowship Baptist Church, Finney portrays herself as primarily a “pew warmer” these days. “I’m inclined to talk too much,” she said, “and I have to be careful not to cut off the younger people.”
Blanche has been a student most of her life, taking advantage of study opportunities wherever she lived — attending the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Colorado, Colorado State and Eastern New Mexico University.
“Actually,” she said, “I have a M.D. degree.” She laughed, “That stands for ‘Mother of Doctors.'”
Two of her children have doctor’s degrees. Her son, “Dr. Bart,” is a professor at Emporia State, and daughter, “Dr. Barbara,” teaches at Regis University, Denver. A second daughter, Kathie, with a master’s in music, works for the state social services department in Colorado. All three children were present when Finney was presented her Seminary Extension diploma.
Finney was reluctant to be interviewed for a story on her accomplishments. “Publicity scares me,” she said. “But if telling my story encourages someone to keep on learning, it’s worth it.”
As to her future plans, she said, “As long as I am living I intend to keep on learning.”

Hill is public relations specialist, Seminary Extension.

    About the Author

  • Leonard E. Hill