Always Learning: Strengthening Minds, Building Friendships
WCC’s Collegium for Lifelong Learning
Edith Litt knew something needed to change. Widowed and retired, with most of her friends moving away to Florida, the Sleepy Hollow resident craved intellectual stimulation and social interaction.
She decided to audit architecture courses at Yale University. Though she enjoyed the courses, being the oldest student proved frustrating. “I was the old lady sitting there with a bunch of kids,” she says. “If I wanted to talk to somebody about one of the courses after the lecture, they weren’t going to talk to me. They wanted to talk to each other.”
If she couldn’t find the combination of intellectual and social stimulation she was craving, Edith was determined to create it herself. That germ of an idea blossomed into the Collegium for Lifelong Learning. The program would offer older adults the opportunity to gather, learn about and discuss topics that interest them, and get to know one another. All Edith needed was a location.
A Westchester Community College Foundation Board Member at the time, Edith felt that few understood that WCC was a wonderful institution with so much to offer to the community. Housing the Collegium at WCC would give a wider range of people the opportunity to experience the school’s gorgeous, sprawling campus, warm atmosphere, and top-notch faculty.
After some initial concerns about space and classroom availability, the Collegium found a home at the College’s Knollwood Center, a squat, rustic-looking stone building on the outskirts of campus. Once the athletic building and then a children’s center, it now houses four renovated classrooms and a common area.
The Collegium for Lifelong Learning officially opened at WCC in 2004. For the first five years or so, Edith handselected the courses herself, which were, and continue to be, taught by professors, retired educators, or professionals with expertise in the subject area who volunteer their time.
Now that there’s a Collegium board to run the show, Edith is able to enjoy the program she founded all those years ago as a learner. And there’s certainly a plethora of fascinating subjects to explore. This fall, there will be courses on everything from personal finances to the Battle of Leyt Gulf, from a Billy Wilder film retrospective to play readings and the 2016 election.
Courses are held on Wednesdays and Fridays (sign up for either day or for both), and run for six weeks. There’s a break between classes for coffee, cookies, and mingling, as well as a group lunch. Participants often join with their spouse or a group of friends, though many come to the program as individuals. Cost for a Wednesday or Friday series is about $200, or participate in the full program for about $400.
“Many, many people have made new friends here,” Edith says of the program, herself included. “You have people to talk to about stuff that interests you. The benefits of friendship are incalculable.”
For more information on The Collegium, google “wcc collegium” and follow the link to find course offerings. Or call/ email: 914-606-6748. (Collegium Board Members Harry Phillips III and Arthur Goldstein pictured above headline)
Learning in Retirement at Iona College
Hugs, cheerful hellos and all the niceties you’d expect from a group of longtime friends. This is the Learning in Retirement at Iona College (LIRIC) program, now based at the Greek Orthodox Church in New Rochelle.
Providing the opportunity to “meet new people and stretch your mind intellectually,” Publicity Committee Chairperson Kathleen Fredrick is one of the several volunteers leading LIRIC, which has been in operation for close to 22 years and boasts a membership of about 350 people. With a roster of courses ranging from Tai Chi to Prohibition Personalities to Making Your New iPhone Work for You, members join and gain access to any of the myriad of courses held during the semester.
The program runs for about eight weeks each fall and spring with mini-semesters in January and July. During a summer session, Nate Fisher presented Little Known Facts About WWII. Part commentator, part educator, Fisher was peppered with questions from the ‘students’ who were both entertained and informed.
Former English teacher Linda Whetzel first came to LIRIC when she was in her 50s and thought she was “way too young” for the group, with all the gray hairs surrounding her. That was 13 years ago. Now she’s Curriculum Chair. Part of the appeal: attend when you want and there are no papers, no exams.
Then there’s Irene Schindler, who has been leading the Writing Workshop at LIRIC for almost 20 years. Also a former teacher and past President of The Garden Club of New Rochelle, she helps members craft and preserve their life stories. Their annual literary publication LIRICal Musings ensures these histories will be shared with other members, friends and family.
Membership for the year is $190 and covers access to any or all of the lectures. A typical day at LIRIC, which runs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, kicks off with a 10:30am lecture (though the Writing Workshop starts at 9am). There’s a break for bringyour- own lunch, with time to mingle and socialize, followed by afternoon lectures. The day wraps up at about 3:15pm – just like grade school. There are also programs on Fridays and Saturdays, held at Iona and led by one of the College’s faculty.
LIRIC is hosting an open house at 2pm on September 11 at Iona College. If you cannot make the date, explore their website at iona.edu/liric or call/email the LIRIC Director Suzanne Page at 914-633-2675; firstname.lastname@example.org.
University without Walls
Meditation: Mindfulness to the Core, The Intersection of Immigration and Transportation in New York City, Creative Aging: Pen and Ink Wash Techniques, Sexual Health in the Aging Adult. These are just a few of the over 200 University Without Walls’ (UWW) classes offered each year by social services agency Dorot that enable adults to learn and socialize while improving their health, exploring the arts and discussing current events.
All of the UWW classes are offered via teleconferencing or online. Place your phone on speaker to participate in the Yoga class or go online to follow the instructions for the art classes. In operation since 1989, the program’s offerings have expanded across subject matters though about half of the classes are health-related, says Director of Education Services Catherine Li.
Westchester resident Dorothy Rosenman is a big fan of the teleconferenced courses, commenting that, “These courses bring the museum to me. I look forward to them all the time!”
Classes are offered at different times of the day, but typically between 9am and 5pm. Participants of all faiths are on the student roster. Many have moved away from the NY metropolitan area but stay in touch with their telephone classmates and friends by continuing to take classes. Course instructors, referred to as “facilitators” come from an eclectic, highly respected set of institutions: the Brooklyn Public Library, the NY Transit Museum, MoMa, and The Bard Graduate Center,among others.
To find out more about the UWW courses, go to DorotUSA.org or call their toll-free number 877-819-9147.