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The very thought of returning to school at age 50 terrified me.

But I had always considered not having a master’s degree to be unfinished business. So, after serious consideration I methodically developed a plan and moved forward.

The program I was interested in was a Master’s of Science degree in Creativity and Innovation at SUNY Buffalo State. I contacted several people who were graduates of the program to get an overview of what was involved. After meeting with these graduate students and obtaining three letters of recommendation, I was notified by the college that I was accepted and was eligible to enroll in the upcoming semester.

I naively thought I would be able to register manually, but it had to be done via computer. Thankfully, a young student sensed my distress and assisted me.

Then came the makeover from a businesswoman with suits and a briefcase to casual clothes to wear on campus. I solved this by ordering from Lands’ End.

I started classes in the spring semester and I was enthralled with everything I was learning. There were other nontraditional students in my classes, which was a bonus and led to the formation of study groups and to helping each other navigate our way.

In order to complete the requirements of this program, we had to write a thesis or project. Since I was always interested in the relationship between creativity and humor, I presented an outline to my adviser. We concurred that this was a topic worth pursuing. I went forward with my research and took a “serious look at humor” and its relationship to creativity.

As I moved along, I decided that I would like to share my knowledge of humor with others. Thus I set up a goal to become a professional speaker on humor.

Since I had never addressed audiences before, I was advised to attend Toastmasters meetings, so that I could be at ease speaking to groups. While attending these meetings, I met a well-seasoned Toastmaster/Master who took me under his wing. He became my speaking coach and I immediately signed up to take lessons from him on a weekly basis. At the conclusion of my sessions with him, he said I would be fine speaking to groups because I knew my subject matter well.

I graduated in May 1992 and my new career as a speaker on humor began almost immediately. To help me celebrate graduation, my children Jacqueline and Charles hosted a graduation party for me at a comedy club.

Becoming a speaker on humor at age 56 was one of the most exciting and satisfying parts of my life. From 1992 to the present, I have been most fortunate to be invited to speak at many events and to diverse audiences. I developed the name Humour Happens Associates (HHA) for my new enterprise and my tag line is: Humor is the glue that bonds.

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The things that change our lives often come when we are not looking for them. It could be a book we read; it could be a sermon we heard, or it could be the confidence expressed in us by a parent, teacher, or mentor. We would like to hear from Western New York women about the defining influences on their lives for Women’s Voices. Send your essay (up to 700 words) to voices@buffnews.com and include your name, email and daytime phone number. Submissions must be by email and cannot be promotional in nature or anonymous.