The Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Grandparents University came of age this summer when seven-year-old Gabby Flores enrolled with her great-grandfather, Tom Armstrong ’57. The two (shown above in the UW Arboretum) participated in the Restoration Ecology major.

Armstrong first attended the summer program in 2001 with one of his grandchildren, Haley Armstrong Flores, who was one of the first children to participate. In July, he came back to attend with Haley’s daughter, Gabby.

“I never thought I’d be around to see my great-grandchild get old enough to go,” he says.

Attending the program that pairs grandparents with grandkids to enjoy summer learning opportunities on campus is a tradition for the Armstrongs.

“It was a very important rite of passage for each grandchild as they grew up,” Armstrong says, “and each one was a great experience for me.” He has taken 12 grandkids over the years, and each child eagerly awaited the year when it would be his or her turn. Haley recently told him the experience was one of the most important in her life.

Armstrong finds it most rewarding to take one child at a time. That way, he says, “you can talk about things you used to do when you were a kid; you can talk about what their hopes and dreams are. It’s a one-on-one, close personal experience, where there’s no Mom and Dad, there’s no siblings to quarrel with — it’s just you and the grandchild.”

While the classes on topics ranging from art to entomology to computer science are “a great adventure” for the children, he says, there is one course that stands out for him — a biotechnology class taught by Tom Zinnen PhD’85. “For the adults, Tom is the most learned, exciting, fun teacher who ever walked the face of this earth,” he says. “He is so good that he just entertains constantly.”

A retired banker who lives in Fredonia, Wisconsin, Armstrong looks forward to taking one remaining grandchild, who is now five, to Grandparents University when she gets a little older.

For more information on the program, visit


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