Jyväskylä is one of the most desired places to study and live in Finland. Since its founding as a teacher training seminary, the university has attracted students from all over the country to the spectacular Seminaarimäki campus. It has been said that the University of Jyväskylä has educated all of Finland. In many families, generation after generation has begun school in Jyväskylä.

Emeritus Professor Hannu Tervo’s family has university students in no less than five generations. This is special because the Tervo family story encapsulates Jyväskylä’s attraction. The members of the family have arrived in Jyväskylä from different parts of Finland: Sotkamo in the 1870s, Helsinki in the 1910s, Imatra in the 1940s, Vaasa in the 1970s and – finally – Jyväskylä in the 2000s. “None of them had the family tradition in mind when they chose Jyväskylä as their place of study,” Tervo says. It’s just that Jyväskylä has always been an excellent choice.

The first to arrive was Hannu’s great-grandfather, Jussi Pekka Tervo, in 1873. The son of a small house and a big family left Sotkamo for the interior of Finland driven by a desire for progress. After graduating from the first Finnish-language teacher-training seminary, Jussi Pekka served 43 years as a teacher in Nokia. He was an enthusiastic teacher with a range of skills and interests.

“This happy, singing and playful man from Kainuu brought with him from the North the first pair of skis in the parish, went skiing downhill so that his beard flew in the wind, with the pupils following behind.”

At the teacher-training seminary, the secondary school graduate classes were called “hospitant classes”. The 22-year-old Hilkka Rissanen, Hannu Tervo’s grandmother, began studying at the Jyväskylä seminary in 1911 and she graduated as an elementary school teacher. Starting a family and bringing up children kept her away from teaching for many years. Later, she taught gymnastics for girls as well as drawing and art at the Inkeroinen mixed secondary school, Hannu explains.

Hilkka’s youngest child, Tuija Ranta, came to Jyväskylä from Imatra to study to be an elementary school teacher in 1943. The dream of Jyväskylä to have a university had made rapid progress as the seminary became the Jyväskylä College of Education in 1934. Tuija made her teacher career in Vaasa, where she moved with her husband in 1949. She became a conscientious and well-liked teacher in the Vaasa Hietalahti school, which was built in the late 1950s.

“Tuija excelled as a teacher of the third and fourth years and prepared hundreds of pupils for secondary school.”

After Tuija’s son, Hannu Tervo, graduated secondary school in Vaasa in 1971, he weighed his choices. The senior student issue of the Jyväskylä Students’ Union magazine made him realise that Jyväskylä could be a nice place to study. He applied and was admitted to study statistics and economics in the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences.

During a single generation, both the city and university had steadily grown. The now multidisciplinary college of education officially became a university in 1966. The strength of the city were the students, who brought a unique energy. Even today, the large number of students has made Jyväskylä known as a community that values and inspires its members, and which turns students into top professionals.

“Student life in the early 1970s was all about having fun, politics and studying. Parties organised by students were very lively. The cry of ‘one person, one vote’ was heard at many student demonstrations. The Degree Reform was in progress and a new generation was taking over.”

Hannu Tervo began work at the rapidly expanding university. The dream of his student days, to settle down in lively Jyväskylä, came true. His growing family followed him. A doctoral degree and other qualifications helped him establish his position as a professor of economics.

At the turn of the 2000s, Hannu’s daughter, Saara Tervo, was looking for a direction in her studies. An au pair year in Paris helped her see that studies in the Faculty of Education might be the solution. Special Education, in particular, seemed interesting. Originally, her intention was to study somewhere else but she was impressed by the high level of education studies in Jyväskylä. When Saara, after a competitive student selection, was admitted to study special education in Jyväskylä, she felt she had made the right choice. Today, she works as a special education teacher in Laukaa.

Saara’s daughter, who is a secondary school student, is already thinking about the future and studies in education are an option. There might soon see a sixth-generation student at the campus.

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