It’s a wonderful sight to see all the seniors arrive on the Glendon campus for Living and Learning in Retirement (LLIR) classes on Fridays: they are full of enthusiasm, ready to learn, eager to stay in contact with the world and the younger generation. There is a positive buzz as these dedicated participants discuss in the hallways and in the dining hall – clearly continued learning is an important part of their weekly activities.
Right: LLIR president Nancy Christie, Glendon principal Kenneth McRoberts and Friends of Glendon president Chad Craig with the $25,000 cheque
The LLIR program has just marked its thirty-fifth successful year at Glendon with a public celebration on Friday, September 19th. Members of LLIR and the entire Glendon community were invited to enjoy coffee and cake, while listening to speakers reviewing their history and achievements on this campus. This was also the occasion for handing over a huge symbolic cheque – a real donation of $25,000 from LLIR to the Friends of Glendon (FoG), a volunteer organization disbursing financial help to Glendon students based on need or academic merit.
The third age learning movement began in 1973, pioneering a university lecture series which provided ‘nourishment’ for the mind, run by seniors themselves. Glendon’s Living and Learning in Retirement group was one of the first among these, taking off in the fall of 1973 with courses in Canadian Studies, which attracted 144 registrants. Today, 713 active members can choose from four courses each term covering a range of subjects on history, politics, science and the arts in Canada and beyond. There are also 105 eager people on a capped waiting list, ready to start as soon as possible.
Left: Everyone was eager to have a piece of the huge cake
Members enjoy the enthusiasm and high level of content provided by the lecturers, many of whom are on York’s faculty. There are now more than 30 similar organizations in Ontario (and numerous others in the rest of the country) - including groups at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and George Brown College, in the GTA alone.
When LLIR got its start in 1973, professor Albert Tucker was Glendon’s principal. As one of the speakers at the celebration, principal emeritus Tucker recalled how it all began. “I have very distinct memories of a group of retired persons, who approached me in 1973 with an interesting proposal.” This group had received $1,600 from the Ontario government’s New Horizons Fund to present a single event on the Glendon campus. But they had greater aspirations: to create an ongoing program for retired people on the Glendon campus, which suited older people, being more accessible, and more congenial than larger venues.
LLIR members Carol Attridge, Carolyn Thomas, Ann McKibbon, Anne Robson and Jean Hughes praised their Glendon experience
And so, this became a reality, with full support from Tucker. There were many details to work out, not least, there was the curriculum to define which, according to the organizers, was not going to be a Glendon or York curriculum, but one that was entirely their own. Glendon history professor and York historian Michiel Horn acted as their advisor with the curriculum and finding teaching staff; he has continued in this role for over 30 years, with professor Geoffrey Ewen of Glendon’s Multidisciplinary Studies, Canadian Studies and History Departments taking over in recent years. While the organizers needed support in setting things up, they did not need money, because the tuition fees fully covered – and continue to cover - expenses.
In fact, LLIR members have demonstrated outstanding Glendon “citizenship” over the years. In 1998, on their 25th anniversary, they established a $25,000 service bursary fund for Glendon students, as well as donating $5,000 for audiovisual upgrading for classrooms, and an additional $18,000 to the Friends of Glendon during regular university-wide fundraising. On their 30th anniversary in 2003, they presented a cheque for $15,000 for additional audiovisual refurbishing in Glendon’s lecture halls and $3,500 as a donation to the FoG for students in need.
Left: Past presidents of LLIR:
Back row - Nancy Christie, Steve Edson, Ann Cooper;
Middle row - Donald G. Ray, Raymond Whaley, Margaret Anglin, Al Johnston;
Bottom row - Peggy Rees, Gail Horrick, Priscilla Cole, David Pelton
But LLIR members do much more than donate money. They have invited students far away from home to their own homes for holiday dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas; they have shared their knowledge and provided mentorship to younger members of the college’s community. They are a positive presence and role models for all of us: students, faculty and staff.
York president Mamdouh Shoukri observed in his address: “…At York, we talk a lot about accessibility. […] This usually refers to the physical aspects of the campuses, enabling students with different challenges to attend; or to tuition fees which some students may not be able to afford. But LLIR puts another meaning to accessibility, referring to a life-long access to learning. Retired learners and young students have much to teach each other. Life experience is a very important asset. We would like to thank all of you for your generous, ongoing support of our young people, in such a variety of ways.”
Right: Former Glendon head librarian Phyllis Platnick enjoys her courses at LLIR
“Glendon is our educational home away from home”, said LLIR president Nancy Christie. “This beautiful campus and its helpful staff make it possible for seniors, even in their 80s, to continue learning, to keep their window open on the world.” Phyllis Platnick, head librarian of Glendon’s Leslie Frost Library for seven years during the 1980s, and another enthusiastic ‘student’ at LLIR remarked that “…I explored several educational programs for retired people, but none of them matched the relaxed, positive and stimulating atmosphere on this campus.”
Five youthful individuals around one of the tables were eager to comment on what LLIR means to them. “LLIR is essential for my intellectual and emotional well-being”, remarked Ann Robson, LLIR’s treasurer. “It provides me with stimulation in one of the most enjoyable settings.” Carolyn Thomas, another participant for the past decade observed that “… living alone, LLIR is the greatest remedy for isolation. Seeing all these young people fills us with new energy.”
Left: It was a wonderful cake
“The thing I love about LLIR”, added Carol Attridge, “is that it exposes me to topics about which I know little, and allows me to meet great people.” Said Jean Hughes, program director on LLIR’s executive, “… it is a long time since most of us have been at university. After raising five children, this is my time to choose what I want to learn. For many here, especially those who are less mobile, this is the one great opportunity each week to get out, meet others and expand their minds.” And LLIR’s registrar, Ann McKibbon pointed out that “… after retiring early, I feel lucky to participate and to be involved with the dedicated group of volunteers who make up LLIR’s executive.”
The $25,000 donated by LLIR this year will fund one scholarship and one bursary for Glendon students. This amount is matched – dollar for dollar – by the Ontario government, as are their previous gifts to the college. The total of their donations since the beginning amounts to an astounding $483,246.05. This year’s LLIR bursary goes to 2nd-year French and Drama major Geneviève Melanson. “I am very grateful for the LLIR’s generosity”, said Melanson, “which allows me to take another course this year”.
Right: Principal McRoberts with LLIR bursary recipient Geneviève Melanson and York president Mamdouh Shoukri
“Donations from LLIR help us increase the value of existing scholarships and establish new ones responding to student needs”, added Chad Craig (Glendon B.A. 2006), the current president of the Friends of Glendon. “Our emergency loan program is unique to Glendon and just this year, donations such as those by LLIR allowed us to start a book voucher program for students who need help with paying for their books.”
“The relationship of the LLIR and Glendon is precisely the kind of partnership that needs to be nurtured and reinforced – it is an important benefit to both”, said Glendon principal Kenneth McRoberts in his address. “The LLIR’s presence on the Glendon campus is a great asset in a number of ways and we are very grateful for their generosity.”
Submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny