History

In January 1996, Pat Baugher and Marisa Scala (both then staff members in Miami’s Scripps Gerontology Center) convened a diverse group of older adults and others with a professional interest in lifelong learning. To the conveners’ first question – “Is there a need for a substantive educational program for older adults in Oxford?” – everyone responded affirmatively. From the two educational program models presented for consideration, the group opted for the ILR model, a fundamental tenet of which is that the program is member-driven. That tenet (plus the non-availability of University personnel with time to devote to developing the program) required potential beneficiaries to voluntarily commit time, energy, and expertise to conceptualizing and operationalizing the program. Several from the original group (Luan Luce, Becky Lukens, Heanon Wilkens, Cynthia Kelley, Barbara Eshbaugh, Pat, and Marisa) agreed to get the ball rolling and recruited others (including Alan Engel, Len and Ruth Conner, Helen Martin, Winnie Pearson, and Joyce Rouse) to serve on the Planning Committee. This committee, under Luan’s amazing leadership and with assistance from Bob Karrow in the Office of Continuing Education, worked from spring 1996 until March 1997 to develop a mission statement, organizational and governance structure, program focuses (seminars and service-learning), first semester course offerings, marketing materials, and the vehicles for introducing the concept and program to the Oxford community and to organizations and Miami alums in southwestern Ohio and southeastern Indiana.

Since our first semester (spring 1997) when we offered ten courses and had 76 students, our growth has been perceptible – we’ve increased the number of courses offered each semester to 60-70 and nearly quintupled the number of people taking courses each semester; as a result, many of our courses are now scheduled in off-campus sites in and beyond Oxford as well as in Hamilton, Fairfield, West Chester, and Monroe. From the outset, we intended to expand to other communities in the region; with the expansions to VOALC (2011) and Mt. Pleasant Retirement Community (2013), we achieved that goal and gained regional status and presence.

What began as a program of courses offered during two five-week semesters each year has evolved to a more extensive and virtually year-round program. The 1999 addition and subsequent expansion of Special Events has provided an array of learning and social opportunities for the period between our fall and spring semesters. Similarly, our Travel-Study program, started in 2001, enabled members to travel internationally with a focus on learning about the history, people, and culture of the countries visited; sadly, this program was terminated in 2007 because dwindling participation simply did not justify the time and energy required to coordinate it. Early on, service-learning was one of our curricular areas; now, in place of service-learning classes, some members participate in annual projects such as an intergenerational book discussion with Oxford's fifth graders and Sharefest; ILR also has a representative on the Oxford Community Foundation's Needs Awareness Committee and, as our financial situation allows, we help co-sponsor select University events such as Freedom Summer Conferences, major lectures, etc. Another avenue for community connections is ILR classes built around themes from University and community programs (e.g. Freedom Summer, the Reformation, visit by the Dalai Lama, the Ohio Innocence Project).

Much of what is remarkable about this ILR and most others is how much happens because of people’s initiative, talents, ideas, and willingness to be involved as leaders and/or “worker bees.” Every member of the Board and every committee member serves voluntarily and without compensation. The same is true of course instructors, coordinators, and lecturers, all of whom serve out of the goodness of their hearts and for nothing more than our undying gratitude and the enjoyment of working with eager learners. We have been blessed with exceptional support from staff in our administrative home at MU (Continuing Education, now Global Initiatives), particularly our Program Directors: Catherine Hollins (1998-2006) and Judy Macke (since 2010). They are the ones who, day after day, respond to the public, represent us to the campus community, deal with operational and policy issues, handle a myriad of details without ever losing sight of the bigger picture; bring all the pieces together into a coherent whole, and contribute the binding that has allowed ILR to expand, flourish, and succeed as a thriving convergence of people, opportunities, and enthusiasm for learning.

Perhaps the definitive mark of our growth and success is that most people now recognize the term “ILR” and think of it positively. In fact, we know of people who have chosen to relocate to this area because of ILR, and many who are nearing retirement tell us they “can’t wait to get involved!”

Milestones in ILR’s First Twenty Years at Miami

1996

  • Institute for Learning in Retirement concept introduced to selected community members. Planning committee formed and begins developing program

1997

  • First semester begins in March with 10 courses; 76 members
  • Become member of Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN) which includes more than 230 ILRs across North America
  • Cover story in EIN national newsletter features our service-learning program

1998

  • Bylaws adopted to establish our governance structure
  • Catherine Hollins appointed as our Program Manager
  • Delegates attend regional EIN conference in Michigan to learn, share, and network

1999

  • Delegates attend national EIN conference in Washington, D.C.
  • Special Events program established to provide between-semester activities that are both social and educational
  • First issue of local newsletter published

2000

  • Region of operation expanded to offer courses in Hamilton as well as Oxford
  • Collaborative relationships developed with Knolls of Oxford, Colonial Senior Services in Hamilton, and Middfest of Middletown

2001

  • First ILR-sponsored international travel program takes place in Great Britain
  • EIN national newsletter again cites our service-learning program, this time for "HIP Generations," an intergenerational course involving ILR members, Miami undergraduates, and Kramer School third graders

2002

  • Fifth Anniversary celebrated with gala luncheon at Marcum Center
  • First ILR-sponsored concert in Miami’s Performing Arts Series
  • Increasing number of classes scheduled in off-campus facilities in Oxford and beyond

2003

  • First ILR-sponsored concert in Oxford’s “Midday Music” series
  • Collaborative relationship established with Hamilton Senior Center

2004

  • First ILR-sponsored trip to a theatre festival in Canada

2005

  • Delegates attend regional EIN Conference in Asheville, NC
  • New logo introduced and newsletter redesigned
  • Summer film series established
  • 10th Anniversary Celebration Committee appointed and begins planning for 2007

2006

  • Class locations expanded to Fairfield Community Center
  • Fund-raising effort launched to support selected 10th Anniversary programs and build funds for future
  • Nominal annual membership fee instituted; first fee increase since ILR began
  • Catherine Hollins resigned from MU and Program Manager position

2007

  • International travel program discontinued
  • Tenth Anniversary celebrated with publication of 2007 calendar with pictures and program information; sponsored Baroque concert as part of Midday Music in Oxford series; hosted Ron Manheimer, Exec. Dir. of NC Center for Creative Retirement, for lectures and workshops for various groups; gala luncheon in Shriver Center

2009

  • Co-sponsored (with OLLI UC) half-day program about the Ohio Innocence Project

2010

  • Judy Macke appointed as ILR Program Manager
  • Co-sponsored commissioned play, "Down in Mississippi" and keynote speaker for Freedom Summer Conference at MU
  • Sponsored two lectures in conjunction with Dalai Lama's visit to MU

2011

  • Began helping with intergenerational book discussion with Oxford's fifth graders
  • Became financially self-sufficient as of July 1
  • Expanded to VOALC in fall semester

2012

  • Fifteenth Anniversary celebrated with pasta luncheon honoring instructors and members
  • Lumbered through first experience with on-line registration
  • Revised Handbook for Instructors

2013

  • Expanded to Mt. Pleasant Retirement Community in spring
  • Hosted (with OLLI UC) a full-day conference at VOALC underwritten by Atrium Medical Center
  • Established conflict of interest policy for instructors and resolved issues with ILR's alcohol policy

2014

  • Joined Oxford Community Foundation's Needs Awareness Committee
  • Learning in Retirement Fund established at the Oxford Community Foundation. This fund enabled ILR to help support the 2014 MU Freedom Summer Reunion Conference
  • ILR data base system established to streamline record-keeping

2015

  • Oxford Campus parking issues favorably resolved
  • Fall membership exceeds 300 for the first time

2016

  • Bulk mail issues seriously delayed delivery of spring Bulletins; ultimately resolved
  • Experimented with an evening lecture series; will not be continued

2017

  • Membership increases for the fifth straight year
  • Twentieth Anniversary celebrated with luncheon at the Fitton Center