Scott Neely ’00 and Gervais Hollowell ’85 are back in class at Wofford, but this time teaching people who prove each day that learning never stops.
Neely, the chief strategist and facilitator, and Marlanda DeKine, the executive director, of Speaking Down Barriers brought quiet, thoughtfulness, laughter and shared insight to Lifelong Learning at Wofford participants during a two-part series this spring. The event, “Transforming Our Stories with Speaking Down Barriers,” included discussion and storytelling focused on rethinking and retelling stories of race and racism to reshape the world.
“Our stories seem so small, but what we find is that they carry great weight in our lives,” says Neely. “When we deal with race, we are dealing with something that is full of pain and full of disagreement. There’s very little shared perspective and much at stake.”
Jack Lawrence ’65, who has attended several Lifelong Learning classes and seminars, attended the session because he believes it’s important to make his days count. Considering the power in his story and the stories of others fills that need. “It’s incumbent upon us to speak up,” he says.
A few weeks later, Lifelong Learning at Wofford visited Hollowell at Little River Roasting Co., in Spartanburg for “From Farm to Cup: Exploring and Tasting the World of Coffee.” Although the conversation was lighter, the group of lifelong learners took their coffee exploration seriously.
Hollowell, owner of Little River Roasting, discussed ideal soil composition, climate and sun exposure for coffee growing as well as harvesting, processing and screening on the production end. “Everything fascinates me about coffee,” he says. “It’s amazing how many times coffee beans are touched by human hands.” While Hollowell talked, lifelong learners sipped different coffees.
Carol McCulloch was one of the participants in Hollowell’s coffee seminar.
“Lifelong Learning at Wofford is the most interesting thing in Spartanburg as far as I’m concerned,” she says. “It’s an undiscovered secret. I can’t rave about it enough.”
McCulloch is now a program regular. During the spring session she took Dr. Phillip Stone’s “Southern Politics” class on Tuesdays from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Sandor Teszler Library. Stone, the college archivist and a 1994 Wofford graduate, kept McCulloch engaged with tales of the South’s interesting political characters. She also enjoys the field trips, extra speakers and movie-watching events that are all a part of the program.
“I love learning new stuff and meeting new people,” she says. “Learning makes you a more perceptive and receptive person. I’d hate to think that as we get older we can’t be open to new ideas and new people.”
Lifelong Learning at Wofford started in 2015 under the leadership of Charlie Gray ’72. Morgan Jordan took over after Gray retired and has watched the program jump from 180 participants to 342 in less than a year.
“The world is such a big place, and a lot of people crave the opportunity to see and experience it,” says Jordan. “Lifelong Learning at Wofford is a way to bring the world to our community.”
The spring term allowed participants to study Appalachian culture, learn to play bridge, take a watercolor class, debate foreign policy or write a short story, and that’s just the beginning. In addition to a diverse listing of eight-week courses, Lifelong Learning at Wofford also offers a slate of cultural explorations, roundtable discussions and other special events for members.
Membership is growing, new instructors (including a number of Wofford faculty and staff) have joined the program and community partnerships continue to expand.
“We have participants from every profession, and ages range from 35 to 88, although most participants are 50 years and older,” says Jordan. “Lifelong Learning at Wofford is a great service for Spartanburg residents, and it showcases Wofford in a new and wonderful way.”
To learn more, visit wofford.edu/advancement/lifelong-learning. The fall session begins in September.
by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89