Della Campbell of Magnolia is a non-traditional student who has been auditing classes for the past two years at Southern Arkansas University. Her wit and personality make her an asset for the Academic Enrichment Center, where she volunteers as a history tutor and front-desk worker.
Her personality has certainly caught the attention of students. “They ask me what my major is, and I tell them I’m working toward a bachelor’s in ‘F-U-N.’ It takes them a minute to get it, and then they laugh and say, ‘You’re here for fun?’”
Mrs. Campbell, or Della, as she prefers, has been a resident of Magnolia since 1991 but has seen much of the United States and the world as a Vietnam-era U.S. Army veteran. She served her country from 1973-1976.
“I was born and raised in the military,” Della said. “My father retired from the Army and I joined when I was 22. I grew up as an only child and I wanted to get away! My late husband retired from the U.S. Marines.”
She said she has lived in California, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, among other places. “I know that a whole world exists outside Arkansas,” she said, laughing. “My husband spent his entire career around large cities and when we came here, he liked it, and so we decided to stay.”
Her husband ran a business in Magnolia, Campbell Computers, but he passed away in 1994. “I was not looking forward to moving back to Minnesota,” Della said of her decision to stay in Magnolia.
Della holds an AS in business administration, received from MiraCosta College in Oceanside, Calif., as well as an AA in theatre from the same institution. She worked as a clerk, ticket agent for Greyhound, receptionist, and SCAT dispatcher for Central Arkansas Development Council for 11 years and then retired in 2010. Today, she keeps busy answering students’ questions as they come into the AEC and maintaining inventory of the Center’s graphing calculators, which are available for loan to students.
“I’m here Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Della said. “I can help with most subjects except math. I can speak in a few foreign languages – Spanish, German, French, Arabic – I forget my Chinese. I try to speak well enough to say ‘please,’ ‘sit down’ and ‘thank you’ in the languages.”
She said she has certain advantage in her classes. “The rest of the students will be asked to write a seven-page report, and I’ll maybe write a report.”
“I bounce around,” she said of her courses. “I’ll keep doing it until I get bored or run out of classes I like. I’ve audited anthropology, history, geography, philosophy, religion. I stay away from anything that has a lab!”
She said she finds history courses particularly interesting because unlike the majority of her fellow students, “I lived through much of it – when we talk about the Cold War, I’m like, ‘been there, done that.’”
Last spring, Della, who is the mother of Arthur, was awarded Student Support Services’ Volunteer of the Year Award. Last fall, during the annual SSS Open House, she was voted by students as Tutor of the Month of September (People’s Choice).
“While never taking the honors seriously, it seems, on the surface, Della’s humble attitude shows in her winning smile,” said Lavana Kindle, SI coordinator. “She has become a favorite among the students and the tutors. We are very proud of Della’s devotion to SAU and to our students.”