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PEOPLE : CSUN's Elder Greeks : A newly formed sorority/fraternity will draw its members from about 2,500 students who are older than 40.

February 05, 1993|R. DANIEL FOSTER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; R. Daniel Foster writes regularly for The Times.

The new Greek house at Cal State Northridge may conjure up visions of boring, staid social events.

But the organizer of Rho Sigma Chi, a sorority/fraternity for students older than 40, said the group's purpose is similar to that of other campus Greek organizations.

"We're going to party," said 71-year-old Dorothy Creager, who, after 13 years of college life, grew weary of everyone else having fun.

Besides throwing parties, members will also attend school functions, hold fund-raisers, organize study events, compare notes on teachers and offer each other moral support. Creager said the Greek letter Rho denotes returning students and Sigma Chi signifies friendship. The organization's first meeting will be Sunday in CSUN's Student Union. The meeting agenda is to get acquainted and decide on a plan for the year.

Creager, who lives in Reseda with her husband, Morty, began her pursuit of a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1979 when she enrolled at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. She transferred to CSUN in 1984 and graduated in May.

The only connection she experienced with students her own age was in a "Leisure and Aging" class. While Creager pored over case histories in the "Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders," other students were tapping beer kegs and organizing toga parties and trips to Lake Tahoe, she said.

"We seniors deserve a social life too," said Creager, who began working last year to get the group official campus recognition by the Associated Students. That process involved gathering 15 signatures of students interested in forming the organization.

"I got 27," said Creager, adding that it was no small feat to scurry around campus stopping potential signers, many of whom turned out to be professors who, of course, didn't qualify. She also mailed letters to 200 returning students through the campus Adult Re-entry Program.

An Associated Students committee accepted Creager's proposed charter and constitution in November, allowing her group to use campus rooms and facilities. Rho Sigma Chi will draw its members from about 2,500 CSUN students who are older than 40, according to campus enrollment statistics.

"I think it's a wonderful concept," said Ellen Mayer, CSUN's Adult Re-entry Program coordinator. "For those who have the time, I think the added bonus of a campus social life will make for a rich university experience."

"We just thought it was a good idea to get like-minded people together," said Gus Manders, 72, who wrote the group's charter after meeting Creager in a class last year. Manders, who lives in Woodland Hills, enrolled three years ago in CSUN's open masters program--"a kind of privilege of being older--just to study things without the pressure of graduating," said Manders, a retired CPA who has degrees in science and finance.

This month, Creager begins graduate work in education and plans to continue her social rehabilitation work in gerontology programs at area retirement and convalescent homes. She attempted college once before--during the Great Depression--but her plans were stalled because she had no money to purchase textbooks.

"I was 17 years old and wanted to be a librarian," Creager said. "But I just went on with life, got married, had three kids, became a housewife and, later, a bookkeeper."

After she packed her youngest child off to college, Creager said "empty-nest syndrome" set in. "I thought about Helene going to UCLA and I just knew I would love school--a way to be with young people again.

"My self-esteem shot way up after I started classes. I had young people over for Saturday brunch to study. I got along famously. I would get comments like, 'I wish my mother was like you--someone with an open mind who hasn't stopped growing.'

"In classes, kids would come out with four-letter words or sexual remarks. One student told me she was bisexual. I didn't flinch. I talk to people my own age now, and they seem to have blinders on about these things," Creager said.

Rho Sigma Chi's first fund-raiser, details of which will be ironed out at the first meeting, will help returning students who can't afford textbooks--a solution that takes Creager back full circle to the 1930s when she first considered college.

"Other people need to know that, even at this age, you can fulfill your dreams," Creager said.

Where and When What: First meeting of Rho Sigma Chi, a CSUN organization for students older than 40. When: Noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. Location: Santa Clarita room at CSUN's Student Union. Call: (818) 342-2296.

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