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A lifelong learner

Little Falls man has been hitting the books since 1931.

When Oliver Titrud ran away from his Clarissa area farm home at the age of four, he could not have imagined that his destination would lead him on a lifelong quest for knowledge. Young Oliver didn’t really run away; he ran to – that is, he ran to school. At first the teacher directed some older boys to escort the young run-away back home. But Oliver was persistent. Eventually the teacher discussed the situation with his parents and the decision was made to allow him to go to school with his older siblings. That was 1931. In the ensuing years, Oliver Titrud pursued education with a passion and became a Professor of Life Science and Nutrition. At 17, Titrud was a sophomore in college. Then he joined the Navy and was put in the hospital corp. After the Navy, he returned to college and earned a B.S. at Bemidji, an M.S. in science at the University of Denver, and M.Ed. in Education at Macalester; received his Doctor of Chiropractic at the Los Angeles Chiropractic College and a Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) in Educational Administration at Northern Illinois University. He was Professor at Northwestern College, Macalester College, Pasadena College, Warner Pacific College and Canadian Memorial College. Looking back on his education, Dr. Titrud characterizes some of the courses as superficial and others as in depth and challenging. Most of all, he learned to question why things were done the way they were and why it’s considered necessary to do what everyone else is doing. To illustrate this point, Dr. Titrud, who went on to teach human dissection, explains the traditional method of teaching dissection. “In most classes, students are taught to cut through subsequent layers of muscle to learn about muscles and how they function. Once each layer is cut you can’t refer to it again.”         Removing his jacket and unbuttoning his shirt sleeve, Dr. Titrud pushes up his sleeve to reveal his forearm. He flexes and relaxes his arm to demonstrate how in different positions the muscles, once accessed via an incision in just the skin layer, can be manipulated to reveal their action and function. While this may seem obvious, it was actually revolutionary in the world of medicine. “Change comes when an axiom is challenged,” he says. Dr. Titrud went on to write Titrud’s Method of Human Dissection published by Copybreak Printing in 1977. In addition to new methods of dissection, Dr. Titrud taught his student to dress up for procedures using the human body. “It’s a matter of respect,” he explains. “If Tycho Brahe (a sixteenth century Danish astronomer and alchemist) could dress up for the study of stars, we would dress up for the human body; to respect cadavers and the humans that they were.” Dr. Titrud applies this philosophy on a personal level and dresses with panache, even when working at home. As a student and then a teacher of botany, Dr. Titrud experienced the traditional method of learning about plants: they were brought into the classroom for study. After a discussion with the academic dean at Warner Pacific College where he taught, Dr. Titrud began teaching botany, ecology and plant relationships out in the field. “The students who knew where and how the plants grew had an advantage,” he says. Dr. Titrud emphasizes that all life forms were created for function; and there are many choices within function. “People miss it; they don’t feel they have a choice. But you can’t be happy unless you have choice. It’s the missing dimension of health.” Choice is a matter of thought and Dr. Titrud has spent a lot of time analyzing the anatomy of thought. From dissecting brains, which he describes as the most intricate structures in the world, to studying the power of negative and positive thinking, he has come to understand the biological nature of thought and learning. “We have a trillion nerve cells,” he explains. “We have 50 times that number of glial cells which nourish and get rid of waste in the brain. We have 60,000 thoughts per day and 80% of them are negative. Negative thoughts cause nerve cells to degenerate and affect our ability to learn. Positive thoughts create increased branching of the nerve cells which improve the transformation of information from one cell to another. This is not psychological; it’s purely biological.” Improving one’s diet has positive effects on the brain. Including wild caught fish, walnuts, flax seed, and free range eggs can improve brain function. “A hundred years ago, food was all good,” says Dr. Titrud adding that now you have to ask if your food is real or not. The excessive use of high fructose corn syrup, which is increasingly disguised in food labels under other names, is bad. “Corn has arachidonic acid,” says Dr. Titrud. “It kills brain cells.” Dr. Titrud lives what he preaches. He eats wild caught fish three times a week and generally doesn’t eat red meat. He asks questions about the food he eats, both its source and preparation. He stays active and at the age of 85 has no intention of retiring. He’s on the faculty of Shasta Bible College where he teaches nutrition and continues to offer seminars around the country. He drives 30 miles from his home near Little Falls to play cards with his friends at the Clarissa senior center. He enjoys his library of 10,000 books and continues to add to his collection of 1,000 books autographed by well-known authors from Robert Frost to several presidents. “Those autographs are a moment of that person’s time,” he says, and that’s of value to him. They also represent thought and choices which are important to everyone.

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