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The Orion

107-year-old Chico State alumna is CSU’s oldest

Sisters and alumnae Jeanie Shaw, Lynn Balmer — Chico State’s oldest alumna at 107 years old — and Thea Parker wave pennants after being recognized at the 2015 spring convocation address by Chico State President Paul Zingg. Photo credit: Trevor Ryan

Lynn Balmer, an alumna of Chico State, holds the title of the California State University system’s oldest graduate at 107 years and counting.

Balmer graduated from the university in 1927 when it was known as Chico State Teachers College.

Balmer was introduced with her two youngest sisters, Thea Parker, 87, and Jeanie Shaw, 85, at the 2015 spring convocation speech delivered by Chico State President Paul Zingg on Thursday.

Prior to the event, Balmer took time to recollect on some of her favorite memories at Chico State, as well as other personal experiences after graduating.

“My music instructor would walk into class every day and shout, ‘Music is life to live!’ Balmer said. “We really had to learn to appreciate music from that point on. My favorite instructor however, who taught my favorite subject, math. He could make a hater of math a lover of math through his prominent skills, and that’s how I began to love the subject.”

In September of 1927, Balmer went on to teach math at the elementary school level in Albany and eventually in Seattle, where she met her husband of 55 years, Charles Balmer.

Balmer has witnessed and experienced the impacts of social, economic and technological change, yet never let such occurrences overly affect her, she said.

“I’m used to change,” Balmer said. “Things gradually change over time, and I’m used to things coming and going. I hardly get upset over anything new. I just always worked with what happened.”

In 1943, two years after the U.S. officially entered World War II, Balmer joined the Coast Guard, where she was assigned to a code room in Seattle until the end of the war in 1945.

When not in the classroom or the code room, one of Balmer’s favorite hobbies was ice skating.

“I ice skated for 20 years between California and Washington, and that’s how I eventually met my husband,” Balmer said. “We would skate as a pair and perform forms of ballroom dances such as the waltz, foxtrot and tango. We did not skate competitively, despite my chance to skate in the Olympics.”

Balmer’s frequent skating partner was her husband, Charles. She describes their marriage as “instant,” because they had not been dating prior to the proposal.

Balmer recalls receiving a “skinny letter from Charles in the mail one day” that said, “Dammit, I love you! Shall we get married?”

Balmer answered, “Columbus took a chance.”

Balmer and her husband lived in Seattle until 2000 when they moved back to Chico. Her husband passed away in 2001, yet their experiences on and off the ice are Balmer’s “favorite and fondest memories.”

Balmer was a student, teacher, Coast Guard coder and ice skater. However, she is also, and always will be, a Chico State Wildcat.

Blaine Ball can be reached at [email protected] or @BlaineHBall on Twitter.

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