BY RICK WRIGHT –
Kathy Adams is following her life’s dream. “This is my reward for all the years that I worked in public school teaching secondary high school for 25 years,” said Adams. “I needed a change and this was the opportunity that opened up. Mrs. Naomi Thompson started this program. Rich Mountain Community College is the only institution in the state that has this particular program, The Double Nickel 60 plus. People 55 years of age and older can take advantage and come take the class, tuition free. There are fees, but tuition is free.”
“I have four history classes, which two of them are dedicated to Ouachita history, the region of the Ouachitas, our part of Arkansas and two of them are dedicated to the Ozark region of Arkansas,” said Adams. “Then in addition I have three exercise classes, from line dancing to Arthritis Foundation to a very aggresive what they call 60 Plus exercise. So I am the instructor/coordinator of the Double Nickel 60 Plus Program at Rich Mountain Community College.”
Kathy was born on “Hospital Hill” in Mena. Her dad was in the military. “I was six weeks old before my dad got to see me,” said Adams. “I’m a Navy brat, so I’ve lived on both coasts. My dad retired after 20 years in the Navy when I was about seven years old. Both my parents were from here and he wanted to come home. I started my third grade year at Louise Durham School and graduated from Mena High School in 1977.”
Kathy was an All-State trumpet player and had attended summer band camps at Arkansas Tech University. “When ATU offered me a scholarship, even though Arkansas State and the University of Arkansas made offers for band, I chose Tech because I had always gone to band camp there,” said Adams.
Adams credited the Mena school system with a solid start in life and two instructors in particular that were influential for her, “I think we received a wonderful education at Mena High School,” said Adams. “I’ve always thought Mena had exceptional schools. But the two teachers that have influenced me… and made my life what it is… are Harold Coogan… I wanted to be just like him as a history teacher… and Paul Gray, for the self discipline and so forth… to do a job and do it well. I really credit those two individuals for any success I’ve ever had because they laid the groundwork. I was very blessed.”
Kathy’s first teaching job was in neighboring Mount Ida. “I was there for three years,” said Adams. “My grandparents had a home in Texas and a home in Mena. They suggested I go down to Texas and see what I could find. So I went and I was hired at Edna High School, which had a lot of similarities to Mena. Two highways there were Highway 59 and 77, the year I was born and the year I graduated from high school. It even had a Saint Agnes Catholic Church there.”
“I stayed in Edna for 14 years,” said Adams. “Every summer, I got some type of internship to go to Europe. I’ve gone to Europe eight times and I make a pilgrimage to the British Museum because world history is my absolute favorite to teach.”
Kathy spent five weeks in Turkey as an International Rotary Club Ambassador. “Turkey is a very large country,” said Adams. “Literally seeing the other side of the world, because I crossed the Land Bridge between Europe and Asia.”
Adams is grateful for the many opportunities that life has offered her. “I’ve had a wonderful life,” she said. “Getting to travel. I credit that to not getting married [at a young age].” I always tried to teach kids to not do anything that limits your options. Unfortunately marriage and having children limits your options. I haven’t planned any of my life. I’ve just rolled with it and enjoyed my life.” Kathy married Mark when she was 42 years old. Mark is a retired submariner.
Kathy returned home to Mena to take care of her parents and other family issues, and taught one year at Oden High School. Then another dream was fulfilled when she was hired to teach at her alma mater, Mena. She taught at Mena for eight years. This opportunity came after 25 years in secondary education. “This is the most rewarding and fulfilling job I’ve ever had,” said Adams. “I’ve lost both my parents now. These people that I get to work with take their place, filling an emptiness in my heart.”