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Meet Marylou Bondi: A retiree and a Keuka College sophomore

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Dr. Jennie Joiner (left) and Marylou Bondi '20

Keuka College sophomore Marylou Bondi is one example of why you should never give up on your dreams.

Marylou, who graduated from high school in 1966, waited 50 years to fulfill her dream of pursuing a college degree.

“Fifty years is a long time to postpone the realization of a dream,” says Marylou, who attended St. Helena High School, now known Monsignor Scanlan High School, in the Bronx. “But no matter how many years went by, somewhere along the way time stood still in my mind and my heart, and I never abandoned the idea of going to college.” 

After her high school graduation, Marylou says she planned attend college and pursue a major in English and creative writing.

“I never had a goal to be a teacher, or reporter, or anything definite after college,” says Marylou. “I just wanted to write my way through life and wherever that took me, I was ready to go.”

But her parents wanted a career that was a bit more secure for their daughter.

“I was given a choice of nursing school, or if I wanted to teach, attend college through a convent education with my eye on becoming a nun,” says Marylou. “Hmmm, well, I chose nursing school, which at the time was a three-year diploma program. I stayed two years, and I do not regret attending, but it wasn’t the career for me.” 

So Marylou went to work, got married, raised a family, and helped support her husband through his doctoral program. And she proudly saw her children through college—all with her heart set on a college degree of her own.

“It was at my 50th high school reunion a couple of years ago that I decided to stop just thinking about doing it and go for it!” says Marylou. “I was retired, my husband was realizing his dream of being a farmer, my children had families of their own, and my grandchildren didn’t need a babysitter any longer.” 

One of the reasons Marylou, a Prattsburgh resident, chose Keuka College is because she lives close to campus.

“But it was more than that,” says Marylou. “I love the beauty of the campus, the small-town atmosphere I’ve grown used to and, above all, the amazing English department. It offered the classes I had thought about for so long, like American literature, creative non-fiction, and poetry.”

“I love reading just about anything and everything,” Marylou continues. “The fact that I didn’t go to college didn’t really change things as far as my continuing to write. I have an old oak file cabinet full of stories and poems I wrote through the years. But college, a formal education, and a degree in English are very important to me, so here I am!”

After preliminary meetings with Dr. Jennie Joiner, chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and associate professor of English, and Dr. Anne Weed, professor of English, to discuss English as her major, Marylou says she was more than ready to start.

“I wanted as much of a complete college experience as was possible,” she says. “I decided to take on a full-time, on-campus schedule since I had the time, the drive, and a very supportive husband who has been learning to cook many of his own meals.”

“Marylou is a beautiful role model for our students, who love listening to her. She fits in well with them, and she is learning right alongside of them,” says Dr. Joiner. “She is here because she has a deep love of education, and is a great team leader who is respectful of all in the classroom. She encourages her classmates, and is truly an inspiration to them, and to me.”

One of those classmates is Kim Pipher ’19.

“I’ve had Marylou in a number of my classes now and she’s been a great addition to all of them,” says Kim. “She’s a very sweet and sincere person and always has interesting and original thoughts to add to class discussion. I know that everyone in the English program values her both as an addition to our major as well as a person. She’s very easy to talk to as well as dedicated to her studies.”

Marylou has had a beautiful life, adds Dr. Joiner.

“She has let me see what the next chapters in my life could look like, and that no one has to be satisfied being where they are,” she says. “Turning a page in your book can lead to tremendous things. Marylou is a reminder that age is a choice.”

After waiting 50 years to earn a college degree, Marylou says she “absolutely appreciates the value of the very best education I am fortunate enough to have been offered by Keuka College. I’ve wanted this experience and opportunity so much for so long. The feeling never left me; it just got pushed into a quiet corner while my life happened.”

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