Welcome to Lifelong Learning at Wofford College. LLL, as it is (very) affectionately known, is Wofford’s extension into the community at large, a way to bring the college’s educational mission to those outside the traditional student base.
LLL offers about two dozen eight-week courses and other single-session activities each semester. The program served almost 400 students during the fall semester, and a similar number is expected for the spring 2019 session.
The course offerings literally run from A (art) to Y (yoga) and span interests that include hiking, international politics, knitting, meditation, calligraphy and history. The sessions are designed to encourage discussion and feedback.
LLL is open to all adults, although the focus generally is on the 50-plus population. LLL director Morgan Jordan says most students are retired but that ages range from 35 to 93. “You just have to have the curiosity and time to do it,”
Beyond the knowledge shared and the unique experiences associated with LLL, the program boosts Wofford’s presence in the surrounding community.
“We’re learning more and more about the impact on Wofford from the program,” says instructor and LLL advisory committee member Dr. John Simmons, a retired physician. “Some of the people who are participating are new to Spartanburg. They moved here and are looking for adult education opportunities.
“Lifelong Learning creates an awareness of Wofford College. People who were already here may or may not have had any loyalty to Wofford, but we now have a fair-sized LLL alumni population. Many people have learned about Wofford or have developed a relationship with the college who might not have before.”
Simmons says active participation in such programs can be beneficial in numerous ways.
“The senior community now is an active, healthier community with people who may or may not be retired but are looking for something to do with time they have available,” he says. “As a physician, I’m convinced that mental activity is one of the things we can do to ward off some of the neuro-degenerative diseases we’re seeing so much of today.”
For most LLL participants, the program is about much more than passive learning, says instructor Natasha Cimoszewicz-Harlan, who has taught courses on international politics.
“They’re incredibly passionate about the subject matters we discuss,” she says. “We have a discussion session rather than the traditional lecture. People are just incredibly energized and curious and bring a lot to the table. So many are lifetime educators, college professors, kindergarten teachers. Everyone has a lot to share from their life experience.”
The program has provided outlets for both retired and older LLL members while also opening new doors for instructors who have retired from their “real” jobs but still enjoy the give-and-take of the classroom experience.
Gregory Boeshaar, a retired astronomy professor who also worked with several NASA projects, including the Hubble telescope, teaches LLL courses on the nature of the universe and the connections between modern dogs and the ancient wolf.
“This is a chance to give talks to people who are very interested and not just here to get a degree,” he says. “It’s a service to the older community that is a very big necessity. I’m 73. I know you have to keep the mind in gear. This is a chance to stretch the mind a little.
“These people are a little more at ease asking questions. College students are different because you’re grading them. Plus, the lifelong learners laugh at my jokes from the ’60s.”
Bill and Trish Tolstedt moved to the Spartanburg area from Michigan four years ago and soon became participants in the LLL program. In the spring semester this year, Trish took four classes.
“The classes go from fanciful to kind of serious,” Trish says. “There is such a range and variety. It’s hard for us to pick. Bill and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and we have met such wonderful people. We consider them friends. It’s been a great immersion into the community.”
Spartanburg artist Bailie taught a class titled “Drawing Without Lines” during the fall semester. He called the experience – his first with LLL – one of the best of his life.
“I’ve never had a better experience, from the staff to the facilities to the people involved in the class,” he says. “Everything I can say about it is 100 percent positive. The experience has prompted me to going back to teach some other classes (in addition to the Wofford group).”
The program, which was started by long-time Wofford administrator Charlie Gray, has an annual fee of $50, and classes are $40 each. There are no other fees, although some classes require reading materials or supplies.
By Mike Hembree