Photo by Jessica Bibbee

Not ready for retirement, 70-year-old Evans Koukios (left) became an emeritus student at Washtenaw Community College, taking photography classes alongside his daughter, Maria. (Photo by Jessica Bibbee)

Emeritus student Evans Koukios is a life-long learner

For more than 25 years, the Emeritus Scholarship program at Washtenaw Community College has provided tuition-free classes to in-district residents aged 65 and older, directly giving back to the community.

Kathie Currie, director of student services at WCC said “the Emeritus Scholarship is something WCC offers residents of Washtenaw County as a thank you for their years of support as taxpayers and community members.”

When Evans Koukios, 70, contemplated retirement, he wasted no time in planning his goals. He would become a WCC emeritus student.

“I’m thinking to start a photography and videography business to supplement my meager Social Security,” he said. “Being a wage earner is both practical and necessary in today’s world, especially at my age when our family still has college level kids and the future, hopefully, will include grandchildren.”

Times are indeed changing, and to keep up with the current economic pace, Koukios’ entrepreneurial spirit has found renewed motivation. He is a regular contributor of photography at The Washtenaw Voice, WCC’s student newspaper, and you can find him at a variety of student and community events, with camera in hand.

A 1968 Harvard University graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in European Intellectual History, it is no surprise that Koukios is a self-motivated and life-long learner. But why did Koukios sign up for classes and homework, decades after graduating from Harvard?

“I was valedictorian of my high school class at Grand Rapids Central High School (1964),” he said. “School is in my genes, I guess.”

After owning his own software development company for two decades, he and his wife, Ann Marie, adopted three children from Russia.

At the time, Ann Marie, who has a doctorate in Music from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, was working full time, so Koukios took time off to devote more time to their children’s education.

His eldest son, Alex, was the first to enroll as a high school student at Washtenaw Technical Middle College, a charter school on WCC’s campus. He stayed on at WCC to earn his associate degree in Welding Technology, then transferred to Eastern Michigan University on the 3:1 bachelor degree program.

With just one more year of general education at WCC and a final year at Eastern Michigan, Alex will finish with a bachelor of science degree in Technology Management.

The rest of the family has followed his path to WCC. Koukios’ youngest son George is now studying in the business program at WCC.

Daughter Maria is a 2016 graduate of the Photographic Technologies program at WCC. Having lived in a Russian orphanage until age 5, she required extra tutoring and support throughout her education. Koukios has been at her side, as a mentor and now classmate, taking photography courses together.

This fall, he plans to enroll as an emeritus student at Wayne State University and study journalism, alongside Maria as she transfers into the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at WSU. “It has been a blessing to me to help her get to where she is today,” he said.

The experience of adopting and raising children has reminded Koukios of his love for learning and given him the incentive and opportunity to go back to school.

As an emeritus student, Koukios offers advice to others considering a path to learning for those aged 65 and beyond: “Learn the system of registering for courses before the semester starts to lock in a popular course,” he says. “Audit the course if you don’t want the pressure of grades.”

Koukios relishes the freedom of choosing to audit some classes, and committing to others for credit—and a grade. He has a genuine appreciation of returning as a student in one’s later years.

“The courses are so good and the faculty and resources so great at WCC that I am learning an incredible amount. It’s like being young again.”

In the fall of 2015, more than 100 emeritus students enrolled in more than 150 credit and non-credit classes at WCC.

For more information on the Emeritus Scholarship program, visit: http://www.wccnet.edu/studentconnection/payingtuition/emeritus/.

By Jessica Bibbee

Intern, Public Relations