KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — One of the oldest students at Pellissippi State Community College says his life centers around a three-part philosophy.
“Never stop learning, stay active, and give back when you can serve your community,” said 78-year old Norm Naylor. “Just to get my feel wet I took a year course in US history, which I used to teach, and I realized I sure forgot a lot."
Even though he has earned four degrees and even taught an array of subjects as a military officer, the Air Force veteran has spent almost a dozen years auditing classes at PSCC.
“I can offer sometimes a different point of view or sometimes another point of humor,” said Naylor.
He described a moment during a philosophy and ethics class when the professor was offering a review for the exam.
“And I didn’t realize I said anything out loud, but I said gee, that looks hard. The young woman sitting in front of me turned around and said, ‘what do you care, you don’t take the damn test!’, the whole classroom just erupted in laughter,” recalled Mr. Naylor chuckling. Given he audits the classes Mr. Naylor has the benefit of not taking the tests and he doesn’t receive a grade. But he will do class assignments including a paper he is writing now for an anthropology course.
“What I like about Mr. Naylor, besides the fact he is an Air Force veteran….he is the perfect example of a life-long learner,” said US Air Force Master Sergeant Treavor Harvey who is the current Director of Veterans Services for PSCC.
Across the campuses of that community college they count almost four-hundred veterans which is on par with much larger colleges.
“We want to see them walk across the stage with their degree because that is a milestone moment for them,” said MSgt. Harvey.
He went on to praise Mr. Naylor for helping spearhead an endowment for veterans at PSCC. They hope to raise $100,000. That will fund at least four $1,000 scholarships every year that can go to veterans in need of help to stay on track and earn a degree.
“It’s a chance to give back after I’m gone, and I think that’s what is important,” said Mr. Naylor.
After our on camera interview we asked Mr. Naylor the following 10 questions about his three decades of military service and the influence it had on the rest of his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
Weaver Thornton, twice my high school history teacher, and my master teacher when I did student teaching.
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
I do feel honored. Although I did nothing heroic, I served and I get a "thank you for your service." That is meaningful.
3. How can people thank you for your service?
A word of thanks, a handshake, a pat on the back.
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
Giving them a verbal salute and a thank you. By my volunteer efforts with the Tenn Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. I was at the Yellow Ribbon event on Saturday (Nov 16) for the 23 members of the TN ARNG going to Kosovo.
5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
Today all are volunteers; the draft was in existence when I served. Some from my generation did not share the sense of pride, professionalism, and commitment.
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
Taught me structure, self discipline, team work, and a commitment to serve others.
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
Daughter, a civilian PhD, served on the West Point staff for 9 years. Son-in-law retired after 22 years in the Army. Son served 6 years in the Army Reserve. My parents worked in a manufacturing environment making airplane wings, they supported WWII.
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
Yes, and I've done this.
9. How has your opinion of war changed?
War happens when everything else fails. Military people prepare for a job they hope they never do. However, when called upon, we march forward to win and make peace.
10. How did your military experience shape your faith?
I am a life long Presbyterian. My faith made me a better service member.