Frances Wood is one of MNU’s newest students and she’s already become the most popular girl on campus. She’s not the norm. At 82, she is embracing all college has to offer.
As soon as I sat down with her, four students interrupted our interview by extolling “Granny Franny,” and engaged her in deep conversation. This exchange was the forerunner to at least five more interruptions by faculty and students. No one can get enough of MNU’s most popular girl.
Wood hands students her homemade business cards, which state her name is “Granny Franny.” She asks the students to call her by this pet name and believes the nickname is one reason for her successful relationships with them. The cards also give students access to her phone number and email.
How did this unorthodox student find her way to MNU? This is not the Topeka resident’s first experience in college. Years ago, the Hiawatha, Kan., native attended Westmar College in Le Mars, Iowa, for three semesters. She married, had children and didn’t return to college until now.
When asked if she is working on a degree, Wood answered, “As the basketball people say, ‘one and done!’ I’m not here for a degree.”
Wood says she enrolled at MNU for a change of routine. Recently widowed, she was looking for a change of scenery and pace. She found just that and many new friends. The relationships Wood developed here have been a pleasant surprise.
“I pictured I would be here and just do my own little thing,” she says. “I didn’t think the kids would want to meet me.”
She could not have been more wrong. Anyone who engages Wood in conversation will learn she has many interesting qualities. Despite her age, she shows no signs of slowing down; she is quite adventuresome.
She and her late husband of 59 years traveled to every state in the U.S. She is the national legislation director for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Wood’s involvement in WCTU has taken her all the way to Australia for an international convention,
She frequents the YMCA for workouts with ladies 20 years her junior, and for intense table tennis sessions. She is a devoted participant of the sport and competed in and won a table tennis tournament in the Senior Olympics this fall.
Once baffled by the sweet grandmother-of-six’s attendance in classes, the faculty and students now sing Wood’s praises.
“She asks very good questions in class and is really articulate,” says Dr. Mike Gough, business professor.
Wood has a diverse class schedule. She is taking Kansas and Midwest History, Johannine Literature, Federal Income Tax, and Personal Finance.
The students get to learn from her as she has plenty of stories and personal experience to share with classmates. Wood says she never imagined she would be back in the classroom setting.
“Nothing could have prepared me for this. It was really a far-out idea. I think The Lord put this idea in my head because it came out of nowhere,” she explained.
Amanda Davis is a classmate.
“We just became best friends from our first encounter; she’s hilarious,” Davis says giggling.
Davis admires Wood, not only for her desire to get to know others on campus, but for the love she has already been showing to other students.
Frances Wood has been nothing but a joy and pleasant surprise to the community at MNU. Her experience and desire to learn have added an entirely new dynamic to her classmates’ education. Most importantly, Wood has demonstrated love to the students in a manner that is most uncommon. MNU’s campus may never be the same.