Harlene Hill
Sandra Addy
Black Hills State University has changed considerably since Sandra Addy and Harlene Hill attended nearly 60 years ago. The two longtime friends were college roommates back in the 1950s when petticoats were the fashion and teaching was the only program offered.

BHSU now has 63 undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs and the attire is much less formal. The University also now offers a chance for community members to observe classes for a discounted rate – a program that brought Addy and Hill back to class so many years later.

Addy and Hill, now retired, are taking classes through the University’s Visitor Pass program. For $100 a class, community members have the opportunity to attend classes, on a space available basis, without the need to complete assignments or tests. BHSU courses at the University Center – Rapid City are also available. Visitor Pass registration for fall semester classes begins Monday.

Addy and Hill have taken two classes through the program, but plan on enrolling for more.

 Sandra Addy, left, and Harlene Hill, listen to Dr. Sasha Pursley, associate professor of history, during a Modern European History class the two took through the University's Visitor Pass program.
“Last year we did art history. We really liked that,” Hill said. “We are older, and we have traveled all over so we’ve seen some of the art that we studied.”

Last spring, the two took Modern European History with Dr. Sasha Pursley, BHSU associate professor of history. “It is something we look forward to … choosing the class and visiting with the students,” Hill said.

Both Addy and Hill said they are impressed with the caliber of the college students. “It blows me away at how sharp they are,” Hill said. “The students are wonderful, courteous, bright people.”

The college friends, who roomed together in Wenona Cook, parted ways in 1956 when Hill moved to Vermillion so her husband Leroy could attend law school. However, the two kept in touch through Christmas cards and the occasional meeting in the Black Hills. Hill and her husband moved back to the area in the early 1960s settling in Belle Fourche. Hill returned to BHSU earning her bachelor’s degree in education in 1974 and her master’s degree in education in 1985. She taught school in Belle Fourche for nearly 30 years.

Addy received her teaching certificate from BHSU in 1956. She went on to earn three degrees in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – a bachelor’s degree in 1963, a master’s degree in 1967 and her doctorate in 1974. She taught for several years in elementary schools in Ohio and Illinois. ­

The two reconnected when Addy and her husband Tad retired and moved back to Spearfish. Addy and Hill saw the Visitor Pass program offered by BHSU and decided it would be perfect for two retired educators.

Addy said she and Hill enjoy talking about what they learn in class. “It gives us some interesting topics of conversation,” she said.

However, the two do have some criteria for the classes they choose. “I still don’t like 8 o’clock classes,” Addy joked.

Pursley said having community members, such as Addy and Hill, in the classroom raises the caliber and quality of discussions.

“Sandra and Harlene bring to this class a type of intellectual maturity that has a really great effect on the students,” she said noting that the life experience the two retired women bring to the classroom is invaluable.

Many of the historical events discussed in class are ones Addy and Hill lived through providing first-hand knowledge to the students.

“I can see the students’ ears perk up every time they speak. When they hear history from these ladies, it really sinks in,” she said.

Pursley wants to see the BHSU Visitor Pass program expand especially with such a large retirement community in the Northern Hills. It benefits the BHSU students as much as the community member, she said.

“These people teach the students that learning is a lifelong process,” she said.

To obtain a BHSU Visitor Pass contact Johanna Best at 642-6044. The fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 26.

For more detailed information about the Visitor Pass or to browse a list of spring 2013 courses that are eligible see www.BHSU.edu/VisitorPass.