Ohio State Alumnus Continues Quest for Knowledge through Program 60

An older man with white hair sits in a desk at the front of a college classroom, wearing a surgical mask.
Ron Erkis, a retired orthodontist, attends the history course U.S. Diplomacy in the Middle East, taught by Professor Peter Hahn.

After 45 years of serving the central Ohio community, retired orthodontist Dr. Ron Erkis turned again to his alma mater, The Ohio State University.

­Facing health difficulties that made it hard to continue his former hobbies, such as baseball, Erkis struggled to stay as active and to be as social as he had been during his career.

“I was really missing contact with students that I had, patients that I had, staff that I had,” said Erkis, who taught as an Ohio State School of Dentistry adjunct professor for 40 years.

For Erkis, participating in Program 60 at Ohio State was the answer. Program 60 allows Ohioans ages 60 and older to take classes on a non-credit, space-available and instructor-permission basis. A friend encouraged him during a round of golf to explore Program60 to keep his mind sharp.

Erkis’ prior experience serving in the United States army inspired him to study history.  His first Program 60 course, United States history from 1864-present, allowed him to get back into the classroom and start meeting new people after his retirement.

“I wanted to take one course to see if I liked it, and the instructor was fabulous,” Erkis said. “I sat down next to a graduate student, who I’ve gotten to be friends with.

 Erkis continued to enroll in courses, many of them history courses, including HISTORY 2015 History of American Criminal Justice; HISTORY 3501 U.S. Diplomacy 1920-Present; and HISTORY 3505 U.S. Diplomacy in the Middle East, and more. He has especially appreciated the chance to take courses that were not part of his education during undergraduate and dental school.

This course variety allowed Erkis to continue his “quest for knowledge,” as he puts it, after his years teaching dental students at Ohio State and studying for exams ended.

“You can enjoy the interaction of the people, you can enjoy the classroom experience of hearing professors and other opinions, you can establish relationships with the faculty and students,” he said.

The most valuable experience Erkis has had is building relationships with people from Ohio State — from professors to graduate students to IT support.

While Erkis noted that adults may be hesitant to join Program60 due to­­ technological difficulties, he emphasized how helpful OTDI staff has been. In addition to in-person technology assistance at BuckeyeBar in Thompson Library, Program 60 staff and Ohio State students provide a support system for Erkis when he needs help with technology.­

Erkis hopes to continue taking courses with Program 60 and encourages others to do the same.

“It fills a slot in your life as you mature that I think that most people really need,” he said.

Program 60 is offered at all Ohio State campuses. Registration, a one-time process, is open three times a year. The next registration period is April 5 to May 6, 2022To learn more about Program 60 and register, visit program60.osu.edu.