Forever young

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Rod Dixon refuses to stop learning. After all, he has taken classes at the U during five different decades. And at the age of 83, Dixon may be the oldest student in U history.

He first enrolled at the U as a freshman in 1941, when the incoming class size was a mere 13,702-less than half the size it is now.

As Dixon remembers, tuition only cost $30 per quarter-fewer than $150 per school year. Most textbooks cost less than $1.

From the beginning, Dixon said, his life has been about taking opportunities.

After being invited to a poker game at the Sigma Nu house, Dixon joined the fraternity, which was dubbed “the gay dogs.”

“That place has a glorious atmosphere,” said Dixon, who, to this day, is invited to weekly Sigma Nu poker games.

Seeking a curiosity for literature, Dixon also joined the student newspaper, which was then known as The Utah Chronicle.

In the 1940s, The Chronicle’s offices were on the third floor of Libby Gardner Hall, which was formerly used as the student union. It was published every Thursday and cost 5 cents.

Dixon worked at the news desk for “The peacemaker of national college papers,” which was the paper’s motto in 1943.

Although Dixon wrote a plethora of news articles, his name never appeared alongside them because bylines were not commonly used.

Dixon also joined the local army and served as a 2nd lieutenant from 1943-1945 after the attack of Pearl Harbor.

With the army, he traveled to Wyoming, Washington and California.

Dixon came back to the U, graduated in business in 1947 and later attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He said he became interested in law when his then wife, who graduated from Utah State University, told him he would make a good lawyer.

“Groom believes anything the bride tells him,” Dixon said, laughing.

Back then, people would go on dates to the local restaurant and hangout, The College Inn, located where the FedEx-Kinkos is today on 200 South and University Street, he said.

When Dixon divorced his wife in 1972, he again enrolled at the U, taking several philosophy and psychology classes.

“In the ’80s, I took a lot of ballroom dance classes,” Dixon said. “Even though I was always the last male chosen, what did I care? It was a party.”

Several years ago, Dixon retired from the law firm he had worked for since he graduated from GWU and moved into a retirement home near campus. But he soon grew tired of the hopeless atmosphere.

“It was so horrible and depressing to hear people talk about their aches and pains all the time,” Dixon said. “It was as if old people were aimlessly wandering around, waiting to die.”

So Dixon gave a 30-day notice to the retirement home, made a call to the U administration and moved into the Residence Halls.

“I love all of the optimism, the vigor and the vitality there,” Dixon said. “Students keep me young.”

Now, he is enrolled with 11 credits, consisting of mostly law classes.

Although he receives no credit for the classes, Dixon said he gets an ego boost knowing that he has had 26 years more experience than his classmates.

“It’s all a test for me?to see how much I remember and how well I do compared with how well I did then,” he said. “You have to challenge yourself once in a while.”

As to what his family thinks of his endeavors, Dixon said he is not concerned.

“They all think it’s great,” he said.

Three out of four of Dixon’s children graduated from the U, and although his seven grandchildren are not yet in their teens, he said he expects some of them to attend the U as well.

The only difference between now and when he first attended the U, Dixon said, is that instead of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, he listens to more current music, like The Beach Boys.

“I also don’t date women as much,” he said, adding that in the ’40s, women were called “candy.”

Mark Eddings, community adviser for Shoreline Ridge, said, “Rod is a great guy. It’s a different demographic, because there’s not a lot of old people living in the Residence Halls, but it’s great to have diversity.”

Eddings also said people are surprised at first because they don’t realize older people live there, but Dixon is very friendly and talkative with everyone.

“I really don’t feel like I’m 83,” Dixon said, placing himself more toward the early 30s. “It just feels great knowing that you’ve outlived 90 percent of your classmates,” he said.

Mike Terry

Once a Sigma Nu himself, Rod Dixon chats with member Jake Skog about upcoming events with the fraternity.

Mike Terry

Rod Dixon first enrolled at the U in 1941 and has found himself back at the U with subsequent decade. Now 83 years old and taking mostly law classes, Dickson recently moved into the Residence Halls.