May 16, 2001
Teachers usually glance twice over "birth date" when they pull up James Morris' registration card for Ministry Training Institute classes.
"You were born in 1916 Mr. Morris?"
When asked about himself, Morris might mention that he is pastor of Park United Methodist Church in Wewoka, or that he earned a diploma in Christian studies from Oklahoma Baptist University's MTI program this spring.
Somehow he fails to mention that he is 84.
He doesn't really see what all the fuss is about but he supposes it's his age that surprises people.
"To still be in school at my age - I guess that makes my story unique," he said.
MTI is open to students of any age or career to work toward diplomas, associate of arts degrees or bachelor of arts degrees in Christian studies in evening classes at centers located throughout Oklahoma and six other states.
An electrician before retirement, Morris began taking classes from MTI in the early nineties.
"I wanted to know more about the Bible for pastoring a church," Morris said.
Morris moved to Oklahoma in 1980 from his native Chicago so his wife could care for her mother in Hugo.
A friend asked him to take a pastorate in Seminole and later Wewoka.
"MTI is the smartest thing you could do because the more you learn, the better equipped you are to work with people in the church," he said.
Driving around town, living on his own, and maintaining a job are no big deal, says the Seminole resident. It's those little things he's not able to do anymore that he misses.
"I used to love to play tennis," he said. "I had to give that up - now I have to take it easy."
But education is one thing he says he'll never give up. His next goal is a bachelor's degree through MTI.
"You never stop learning," he said. "If you get to the point where you think you've learned everything, you go backward. By keeping on studying and learning you keep that from happening."