Baker student returns to school 40 years after dropping out of college
When new Baker University student Melinda Hipple entered Collins Center with the freshman class during Traditions Night on Sunday, she received a unique welcome from the student body. The bleachers were filled with upperclassmen chanting “Melinda, Melinda, Melinda,” as she and the other new students stood on the basketball court during the first night of their college experience.
Classes hadn’t started yet, and already Hipple was the most popular student at Baker.
For the past four years, 58-year-old Hipple has spent Thursday through Sunday working the night shift as a clerk at the Kwik Shop in Baldwin City.
Because it is the only place in Baldwin City that is open around the clock, the Kwik Shop is something of a late night and weekend gathering place. Students stop by before going out, as they are heading home from a night out and even to find out where to head next. Hipple become the students’ source for the best parties. She sometimes asks students what their plans are, but normally she figures out what’s happening around town by them informing her. She even tells new students “if they want to know where the best parties are, ask by 11 p.m.”
“If I’m going to work nights, I’m going to make it fun,” Hipple said.
Hipple doesn’t just know students through her job at the Kwik Shop. Since last fall, she has been the house mother at Zeta Chi fraternity. The job was part of what inspired her to apply to Baker as a nontraditional student.
“A lot of it has been exposure to the kids and living in the (fraternity) house,” Hipple said. “I just thought, ‘I’m just spinning my wheels and staying here. It’s time to move myself forward.’”
This isn’t the first time Hipple has attended college. Forty years ago, she completed three semesters at Missouri State University before quitting to get married.
“At that point in time most women went to college to find a husband,” Hipple said. “It was called getting your M-R-S degree.”
Now, Hipple is determined to complete her undergraduate degree.
Zeta Chi fraternity member Mike Wilson has faith in Hipple and thinks as Zeta Chi house mom she will have an advantage as a new student.
“She’s in the perfect place because the guys can help her out just like we would any other brothers,” Wilson said.
Hipple’s main interest is writing. She contributes and edits poems and short stories online and has written two science-fiction books and 400 poems.
She even plans to write a book about some of her strange experiences as a Kwik Shop clerk titled “A Matter of Convenience: Tales of the Night Shift.”
“It goes back to being that storyteller; it’s what I do,” Hipple said. “That’s why I’m going back to school. I want to be a writer.”
A Wildcat Welcome
Although Hipple’s main purpose in attending Baker is to receive her bachelor’s degree, she plans on embracing all parts of student life, including the social scene.
“I think with nontraditional students it is slightly more difficult because you don’t have that real social aspect,” Wilson said.
In Hipple’s case though, she’s already making an effort to not miss out on what many nontraditional students don’t partake in. Sunday she stood with freshman clapping at a pep rally outside of Harter Union, walked with them through campus during Traditions Night, played icebreaker games at Playfair and even danced with students on Hartley Plaza.
Junior Cody Bonebrake knows Hipple from his frequent trips to the Kwik Shop and was one of the students who cheered and danced with her Sunday night.
“We (students) love her; her personality is awesome and she’s just a total character,” Bonebrake said.
Students do see one downside to Hipple’s becoming a Wildcat. She no longer works at the Kwik Shop. But most are excited to see her on campus and in classes and are proud of her for pursuing what she wants most in life.
“We have all the faith in the world in her,” Wilson said.
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