As freshmen begin their academic careers at Grand Valley State University they may wish to seek the advice of more experienced students.

86-year-old Ann Dilley certainly fits the bill.

Dilley is a jewelry and metalsmithing student beginning her 36th academic year at GVSU.

Dilley first registered as a student at Grand Valley in 1979 after hearing a presentation at the Grand Rapids Art Museum by Beverly Seley, coordinator of the jewelry and metalsmithing program, who spoke about opportunities within the program at the university.

Dilley's passion for jewelry making started in 1968 when Dilley’s mother gave her a little white box that had been passed down through multiple generations within her family. The box contained a bloodstone and seven uncut cameos. While previous holders of this family heirloom stored it away, Dilley was determined to use the materials to make something meaningful and useful. This sparked her interest, and future passion, in jewelry making and metalsmithing.

Since her first creation, Dilley has developed a love of transforming family trinkets into wearable jewelry. She is currently crafting broaches for her two daughters made from wax flowers used in 1927 from her mother’s wedding bouquet, and old sterling silver handles.

“It’s not a hobby, it’s more of a passion,” Dilley said. “I think as one marches along in life you need one because as you get older, a lot of things happen that aren’t particularly pleasant. This is what keeps me going. It’s just a total pleasure for me.”

Having worked her way through the entire jewelry and metalsmithing program, Dilley now continuously enrolls in the two most advanced courses. She even requires a special permit signed by the chair of the Art and Design Department to enroll since she is a non-degree seeking student.

To celebrate her passion for metalsmithing arts and commitment to lifelong learning, Dilley’s family established the endowed Ann Dilley Jewelry/Metalsmithing Scholarship in 2014. The scholarship gives preference to non-degree seeking or part-time students.

“I was very proud, pleased and touched that my family chose to do that. I cried at the time,” Dilley said. “I think the struggle to achieve a degree is monumental now and I think this will at least give more than one student an opportunity to take the classes and have a future."