HOUGHTON - One could say that Bill and Eloise Haller are college sweethearts. They have, after all, taken classes together at Michigan Tech University in the fall and spring semesters since 2005.
"This was our first class together, remember?" Eloise said, lifting an industrial archaeology textbook off her dining room table in their Houghton home Monday.
Like many other seniors in the community, the Hallers take classes for free at Tech, taking advantage of a program the university has offered for a number of years to seniors interested in taking classes while not working toward a degree.
Bill and Eloise Haller are seen with some of their textbooks at their home in Houghton recently. Like many other seniors in the community, the Hallers take classes for free at Michigan Tech University. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Stacey Kukkonen)
The Hallers take just one class per semester, usually together, but they have taken classes separately, such as the time when Bill took drilling and blasting and Eloise took more social science classes.
Together, the Hallers have taken many history classes, and thoroughly enjoyed their Copper Country history class.
"We're both Type A personalities," Bill said. "I was self-employed and paid for this house with science and technology and that's a field that's changing daily."
Bill said he likes to take the free classes to stay current in the science fields but doesn't get entertainment out of history-type classes.
"We both love learning," Eloise said.
Also, even though they are often the oldest duo in their classes, the Hallers look forward to being around the students every semester.
"It keeps you young," she said.
And the variety of things they learned has expanded beyond the classroom to include tools used every day they wouldn't have otherwise had exposure to.
"We didn't know what a jump drive was," Eloise said.
The first couple of semesters on campus, Bill said students opened doors for the couple, probably with the idea they may someday taking a class from Bill or Eloise.
"I think they thought we were professors," he said. "Now, they know we're a fixture on campus."
In return, the Hallers feel it's important to give back to the university.
"We appreciate Michigan Tech and what it offers and we say thank you by contributing back," she said.
Tricia Benn of Houghton also enjoys taking part of the free classes at Michigan Tech, including Larry Lankton's Copper Country history class.
"I think it's really great," she said. "I'm thoroughly enjoying it."
Benn, who said she has an special interest in history, has taken two English history classes, cultural anthropology and military history.
"I take them for fun," she said. "No stress, no pressure."
If the classes are taken for fun, seniors aren't required to take quizzes or exams. Many of the seniors enjoy just listening to the lecture in order to retain the information.
John Lehman, assistant vice president for enrollment services at Michigan Tech, said seniors need to be 60 years or older and register as a non-degree seeking student in order to take advantage of the free classes. Seniors are allowed to take up to two courses a semester and currently, there are 11 seniors taking courses at Tech.
"One of the things we see is that these students are naturally curious," he said. "They have an intellectual curiosity to learn more. That brings an added benefit to traditional undergraduate students and brings a benefit to the classroom discussions."
Lehman said Tech sees the benefit of having these unique students in classes and said the fine arts, social science and astronomy classes are the most popular.