Holding back time in the classroom


Annetta Karam turned 97 years old on July 17. She was in class at The University of Akron that day, just another student taking a summer course in Black American Literature — except this is her 37th course since she enrolled at UA in 2006 (when she was only 90). 

Annetta Karam enjoys her time in class and shares her love of learning through an endowment to support scholarships.

Karam attributes her commitment to the classroom to a love of learning, but acknowledges that it is helping her stay active, engaged and very much alive.

"Going to class is keeping my brain active, since I don't play bridge!" says Karam with a sly smile. "I sometimes have to read an assignment two or three times to absorb it…but I do it."  She wears stylish glasses, with lens frames designed to look like a clock face and the tiny metal figure of a man literally "holding back time."

Lasting legacy

Her daily appearance in class certainly sets an example for other students. She's always ready to comment on the day's assignment. But her classmates have no idea just how committed she is to her own education — and theirs. Karam set up an endowment in her name and that of her late husband to support scholarships for deserving students at UA who want to become doctors. Her husband, the late Dr. Harvey Karam, was a physician and chief of family practice at Akron General Medical Center.

The Dr. Harvey A. and Annetta Karam Endowed Scholarship for B.S./M.D. Students at UA supports an outstanding student each year who pursues a medical degree. Karam has described the scholarship as a way to provide students "opportunities to touch lives, to help alleviate pain and to bring comfort to people's lives."

Karam explains that her name in Arabic means "generosity" and she personalized its meaning through the endowment. "I wanted to leave something behind on this earth — to let people know that I was there, not just an ink blot." 

At first, the endowment was set up to award the scholarships after her death. But Karam desired to meet the recipients and provide them with a personal message: "Always hang on to your dreams, become the best medical professional you can possibly be and share your gifts with the world." The first Karam scholar enters her sophomore year in UA's Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences in the B.S./M.D. program; the second scholar will soon be named among the class of incoming freshmen.     

As for her own coursework, Karam says she takes one to two classes each semester, completes the assignments, but doesn't take exams so she doesn't get graded. She doesn't want the pressure. She says she's enjoyed every single class, and rewards the professors with a 2-pound box of chocolates at the end of the semester.

See also:

Akron Beacon Journal: Jewell Cardwell: At 97, she’s quite the mover at UA.

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-6476 or korey@uakron.edu.