PUC Student Adds a Religion Degree to His M.D.

By Beth Whittemore on December 18, 2007

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Many people look forward to the golden years of retirement, planning to do what they always wanted to do, but were too busy. Dr. Allyn Gilbert has already had a full life, and at almost 77 years old, he is continuing to make it richer in an unconventional way. Instead of finding new hobbies and investing in an RV, Gilbert is earning a degree in religion from Pacific Union College.

Gilbert is a retired anesthesiologist who now lives in St. Helena. Five years ago, Gilbert was widowed and open to new ways to enrich his life when he picked up a copy of U.S. News and World Report. The issue was about the nation’s top colleges, and when he discovered that PUC was amongst them, he thought he’d pay a visit on registration day. He has been taking classes part time for five years now and will graduate in June. Gilbert says, “I’m just taking the classes for personal satisfaction and to fill that void in my education.”

Gilbert, however, is a very educated man. After earning a master’s degree in physiology from the University of Illinois, Gilbert also decided to become a doctor. He was a high school science teacher for a year, taught physiology at a medical school in Canada, and spent nine years in the U.S. Navy as a medical officer. He has participated in some of the country’s greatest conflicts, such as World War II, the Korean War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Gilbert still enjoys traveling to enrich his life. He went on a tour of Italy with PUC professor Dr. Warren Ashworth recently. On the trip, he had the opportunity to sail on a ship in the Baltic Sea, see the island of Patmos where John wrote Revelation, and to visit the Vatican to see the Pope perform a mass in St. Peter’s Square. Soon, he will be traveling to China, simply because it’s time to get out for a while.

While attending PUC, Gilbert has appreciated taking classes with today’s college students. He says, “It reassures my faith in the coming generations because the students seem bright and motivated.” In contrast to his secluded home life that he says is “the life of a monk,” he finds it refreshing and stimulating to hear students’ questions, see their laughter and their romances developing, and to watch their plays and hear their music. He has also enjoyed the ethnic diversity at the college.

Besides the students, Gilbert has also learned a lot from the professors and has befriended quite a few of them. He sends postcards to his art professor and enjoys social occasions with his religion professors.

The students, the teachers, and the classes at PUC have all contributed to Gilbert’s quest for enrichment and a better appreciation of the world. He says he is proud to be marching in graduation this June. Although he has no plans to use his new degree, he has found this experience to be a personally fulfilling way to spend his golden years.