During the spring semester this year, Eunice C. Madison took courses in evidence, technology, Chinese language, Chinese calligraphy and French literature at the University of the District of Columbia.
She also studied criminal law at George Washington University.
Madison, 75, a retired District school psychologist, has a nonstop appetite for learning.
"I've been wanting to take Chinese for a hundred years. . . . I take the French courses to keep my ear tuned to the language," she said. Madison, a perpetual student, also speaks a little Italian and Russian.
She never married, has traveled around the world twice and has little tolerance for anyone who believes elderly people are useless.
She summed up her philosophy as: "Life begins in the fourth quarter," the age description she prefers.
"She'd have to live 200 more years to do all she plans to do," said her friend, Muriel (Micki) Sanow. "I've never met anyone like her. She's interested in everything. Just being around her is exciting."
Forced to retire in 1979, Madison filed an age discrimination suit against the District. When her two lawyers said all possible remedies had been exhausted, she appealed to the Supreme Court, writing the brief herself. Although the court denied her petition, Madison said she has no regrets.
"I learned so much. . . . I love law and research," she said. Madison had earlier enrolled in paralegal training at George Washington University's Institute of Law and Aging and she worked on her briefs with law professors.
A white-haired woman of Finnish descent, Madison has long combined her life experiences with academic studies. A native of Chisholm, Minn., she first studied chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota but dropped out to travel and work.
She said she moved to Japan in 1946 to work for the Department of the Army for two years. While there, she said, she climbed Mount Fuji twice and studied and performed Japanese dances on stage.
Madison said she later worked for NATO in Italy for eight years. Back in the United States, she resumed her studies at Minnesota, where she received bachelor's degrees in business and business education. She said she received the school's first master's degree in educational psychology when she was 55.
She moved to the District hoping to work as a school counselor but lacked the required teaching experience. So she said she returned to school and earned the credits needed to become a school psychologist.
She has lived for 21 years in an apartment on Clifton Street NW. "I've watched the children grow up from babies. I used to give them all cookies. I feel like I've grown up here, too."
Two years ago, she was the first recipient of the Eunice C. Madison Award, established in her honor by George Washington's paralegal training program. No one has won it since.
"We said the award would be given to anyone who, like Eunice, filed a petition in pro se as an individual ," said Mary Rosen, director of the school's Paralegal Training for Seniors. "But it's hard finding anyone like Eunice."