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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-Five Years at Miami



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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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



  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


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



  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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



  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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



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


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


  • Membership increases for the fifth straight year
  • Twentieth Anniversary celebrated with luncheon at the Fitton Center
  • Yearly registration hits 600 milestone for the first time


  • Record number of courses and events offered


  • Record-breaking registration for the seventh consecutive year
  • Yearly registration exceeds 700 milestone for the first time



  • Record-breaking registration for the eighth consecutive year
  • Spring semester canceled due to COVID-19
  • Fall semester is the first ever all virtual semester


  • Spring semester is the second all virtual semester
  • Hybrid courses are introduced for the fall
  • Students return to in-person classes under mask mandate
  • ILR reaches students in 19 states via virtual learning


The Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR)

The Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR) at Miami University provides opportunities to explore, develop, and share knowledge and skills in a wide variety of topics. Courses taught by volunteer instructors, complemented by a variety of special events, enable participants to broaden their horizons and engage with other lifelong learners.

Front entrance of MacMillan Hall

Contact Us

106 MacMillan Hall
531 E Spring St.
Oxford, OH 45056
513-529-5896 (fax)