College drop-in runs circles around other kids

PAWTUCKET, RI (WPRI) — Joseph Box shrugs off any questions about whether he cares about being four times the age of many of his Providence College classmates.

“No,” he says, interrupting the tail end of the question. “No.”

He shrugs, shakes his head and smirks as if to ask, why would he care? Box had last attended PC as an undergraduate in 1951, back when tuition was just $660 a year.

“Isn’t that something?” he asks.

But back then, students didn’t get to choose many electives and Western Civilization was not available.

“I wanted to know how we got here,” he says about his choice to drop back in to college. “I’ve had a lot of fun. And I like the dialog between the professors and the students.”

He smiles and then laughs while adding that he gets involved in a lot of that dialog. Safe to say, very few students over the centuries have pulled this much joy from a “Western Civ” class.

Box would then study dentistry and soon begin a career in the late 50’s at his Smithfield Avenue office. He’s proud to say that he worked on four generations of patients. But even though he closed his practice, he continued using his skills as a dentist by traveling to various elder care facilities to help senior citizens hold onto their smile.

“Never crossed my mind to simply retire,” he says.

He reads about a book a week. Still travels to Guatemala for a dental outreach program and also takes a poetry class. For relaxation, there’s opera, a familiar sound in his dental office.

“And I would sing along with the opera,” he says, thinking back when his practice was active.

He was often loud enough for others to hear, as one patient let him know.

“He looked up and he says, you know doc, the most painful thing in this office is your singing.”

With that, another infectious laugh, from the man who at 92 refuses to worry about his age and still loves to learn.

“It’s what keeps my mind at peace. Keeps my body going. Really.”

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