Sylvio Scorza is not your typical college guy. Of course, he used to be – about seventy years ago! That’s right, Scorza turned 87 in March, safely securing his status as Northwestern College’s oldest student. That’s not the only nontraditional thing about him, though.
He was born in Switzerland but raised in Italy until the age of six. He then moved with his family to the United States where his father pastored a predominately Italian church in Chicago.
Scorza’s passion for education was evident even at a young age. As a child, he could often be found in the library. Other favorite pastimes of his included handball, tennis and picking on his three sisters.
After graduating from Chicago Christian High, Scorza attended Woodrow Wilson Junior College in Chicago and Hope College in Holland, Mich. One of his favorite college memories happened while he and some other students were serving dinner to an army unit. They came out of the kitchen and sang in their aprons to the soldiers. “That’s about as crazy as we got back then,” Scorza said.
In 1944, Scorza injured his spine in a traffic accident which left him paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair for life. However, he didn’t let this setback stop him from pursuing his goals. Just six years later he was back in school at Western Seminary in Holland, Mich. where he studied the Old Testament.
Scorza married his wife Phyllis in 1952. “We go by Syl and Phyl,” he said. “We’ve had a good life.” The couple has one daughter and two sons as well as five grandkids and one great-grandchild.
After receiving his doctorate degree from Princeton Seminary, Scorza taught Hebrew at a seminary before moving to Orange City in 1959. As a professor at Northwestern College, Scorza taught religion and Greek. He also furthered the world of theology in numerous ways. One of his major contributions was being an editor of the Amplified Bible translation.
Scorza has looked up to many people throughout his life, but took special note of his former colleague Ralph Mouw, who was a math and physics professor at NW and passed away last August.
It turns out that, in some ways, going to college at age 87 isn’t much different than going at age 18. For example, Scorza is still required to get chapel credits and can often be found sitting in the back pews. When asked why he continues to go to college after 87 years, Scorza responded, “I just love to learn.” His advice for more novice college students: “Work hard. It’ll pay even if you don’t find a job.”