When Springfield resident Novolla McClendon’s family became concerned about her cognitive well-being, she decided she would prove to them that they were, in fact, wrong.
McClendon, who will turn 95 next month, enrolled in – and successfully completed – a Spanish class at Clark State Community College.
That was in the fall semester of 2019. She has since also successfully completed a second Spanish class.
“Now, (my family) says my mind is right, it’s normal,” McClendon says. “That’s why I decided to go to school; to prove to them (I was fine). I think I have. They were really interested in how I was coming along.”
The mother of 10 children, grandmother to 40 and both great and great-great-grandmother to more than 100, McClendon is not only a current Clark State student, but also an alumna.
McClendon went to Springfield High School at the time World War II started.
“Many girls were getting married because the draft was beginning,” she says. “My husband wanted to marry before he was deployed.”
And that August prior to the start of her senior year of high school, she got married. She later completed her GED and became a Practical Nurse (LPN) which then required only a ninth-grade education.
Following graduation McClendon went on to work at the former Community Hospital – then known as City Hospital – in Springfield. Her nursing career also took her to the Dayton VA hospital, Grandview Hospital and Doctor’s Hospital in Columbus, but it was her stint at Ohio State University Medical Center that sent her back to college to become a Registered Nurse.
“At Ohio State, I worked in the delivery room as an LPN,” she says. “I wanted to work in the family planning unit, but the position required an RN.”
The highly-motivated McClendon graduated in 1974 from then Clark Technical College with an associate’s degree in nursing (RN), but she didn’t stop there. A few years later she went on to Meharry Medical College to graduate and become a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Looking back on her nursing career McClendon says she remembers using sterilized gear because disposable was not an option, healing bed sores with granulated sugar, climbing into oxygen tents to bathe patients with tuberculosis and having to remind doctors to wash their hands between patients.
“We really did patient care,” she says. “Now there is a lot of paperwork.”
McClendon even spent some of her career as a visiting nurse in Chicago where she was sent to specific areas of the city to care for the underserved population.
She says God has been good to her and when she looks back, she often wonders how she accomplished all that she did – but she’s not done learning.
McClendon plans to again enroll at Clark State in 2022, with the hope that by then the threat of COVID-19 will have passed. Being proactive, she says next up on her class schedule is American Sign Language (ASL), because she is having some difficulty with her hearing.
“I have enjoyed my classes at Clark State so much,” McClendon says. “My instructor Jennifer Savitscus is my VIP, my inspiration; they usually give five stars for that. I give her 10-plus stars for her patience, support, and encouragement with me: her almost-centenarian student. If there was a Spanish 3, I’d take that, too.
“When I go back to Clark State, I hope I can feel as confident as I did taking Spanish classes.”
Savitscus says “Señora Novolla McClendon” is an inspiration to her.
“Novolla is an incredible role-model to all for being a lifelong learner, with a true passion for knowledge,” she says. “Additionally, she is a wealth of both community and historical knowledge.”
Savitscus says she also admired the passion and love in McClendon’s eyes whenever she spoke of her family.
“In fact, I even learned a new Spanish vocabulary word through our teaching experience,” says Savitscus. “While covering a Spanish unit over the family, it became clear to me that Novolla would need to know the word for great-great grandchildren: tartaranietos. Señora McClendon is truly an exceptional woman, a superb scholar, and a gift to everyone whose life she touches.”