Nov 11, 2022

Going back to school four decades later

A grandmother stands with two grandchildren on the first day of class.

Donna Naimoli graduated from high school in 1958 and first attended Dordt in the early 1980s, finishing her freshman year. Now 40 years later, she’s back at Dordt taking more classes.

“I’ve always loved learning and don’t mind studying,” Naimoli says, “but I felt there was a lack in my life. I had little knowledge of the humanities, the roots of theology, psychology, philosophy, and history. All of these, I believe, are central to understanding our culture, our society, and the world around us.”

Today Naimoli gets to study at Dordt with two of her grandchildren: grandson Avery Den Herder, a senior studying mechanical engineering, and granddaughter Ayda Den Herder, a freshman civil engineering major.

Last spring, Naimoli and Avery took the same core philosophy class, but from different professors. They not only were able to talk about the similarities and differences between their classes, but they had more in-depth conversations about what they were learning than most students can have with their grandparents.

“My grandma’s decision to go back to school has given us another thing to share,” Avery says.“It adds another layer to our relationship that most people don’t get the opportunity to have with their grandparents.”

Naimoli’s decision to go back to school, stemming from her ever-present desire to learn, is a mindset she’s worked at instilling in her children and grandchildren. “At first I didn’t understand why my grandmother would want to go back to college, but then I saw how excited she was to learn,” Ayda says.“She has always been one of my role models, but seeing her want to continue to grow and learn at her age made me even more inspired.”

Naimoli loves sharing what she’s learning not only with her grandchildren but also with fellow students during class discussions.

“I am so impressed by the quality of the students in the classes I’m taking,” she says. “They’re bright, inquisitive, and conscientious of the cultural mandate to redeem and restore the world as followers of Christ. Our society will be strengthened as these students graduate and impact business, science, education, and other fields.”

Ana Timmer ('20)

A picture of campus behind yellow prairie flowers