Skip to Main Content
Oxford and Beyond Excellence and Expertise Global Connections

ILR Celebrates 25 Years

Dedicated volunteers make lifelong learning a priority

Oxford and Beyond Excellence and Expertise Global Connections

ILR Celebrates 25 Years

ILR 25th anniversary logo

Engaged. Enriched. Enlightened.

That is the tagline of Miami's Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR) but it also describes the mindset of hundreds of their volunteers who have made it their mission to teach courses, plan excursions with like-minded community members, and attend classes over the past 25 years.

And after all that time and effort, it's no surprise that you want to reconnect with the friends you've made along the way.

On May 4, the Courtyard by Marriott in Hamilton was the scene for a luncheon for 100 ILR friends who joined ILR Program Manager Judy Macke to mark the silver anniversary of this beloved Miami program, complete with a slate of guest speakers, a proclamation from the Mayor of Oxford, and a highly competitive trivia contest.

Building a Legacy

The ILR grew from the hard work of dedicated Miami community members. In January 1996, staff members from Scripps Gerontology Center began working with a diverse group of local residents with a professional interest in lifelong learning. Their goal was to develop a member-driven program for older adults. With the talents of volunteer instructors—retired or working professionals and scholars—they aimed to create a stimulating environment through an exciting array of academic and general-interest subjects.

By March 1997, the first semester of the ILR launched with 10 courses and 76 members. Twenty-five years later, ILR offers 65-75 classes per semester and has increased its yearly membership ten-fold. Approximately 75% of members have a prior Miami connection.

Speaking on behalf of Global Initiatives, Donna Gouvan, Assistant Director of Budget and Administrative Services, recalled working with ILR about a year after it started. "It was a small program, but it kept growing," she said. She credited much of that growth to the steadfast leadership of people like Program Manager Bob Karrow and Jim Pollicita, Director of the Office of Continuing Education (now part of Global Initiatives). "They felt strongly that it should be volunteer driven, and also that it should be the best at what it does."

Ben Mattox, Chair of the ILR Board of Directors, retired from teaching seven years ago. He told the group that he has been taking ILR classes ever since, enjoying the community of classmates and teachers that he has come to know. "And here is the best thing about ILR," he said. "No tests, no grades, no homework...and no grading!"

Scenes from the 25th Anniversary Luncheon
Speakers and guests at ILR

Partnerships for Life

Several years ago, ILR found its way to new spaces in the community, where they offered on-site programming to residents of independent/assisted living facilities until COVID protocols made that impossible. And it is clear that these partnerships have made a difference.

Cheryl Hampton, Community Relations Specialist, The Knolls of Oxford, praised ILR for the way it brings stimulating programming to older adults. "ILR was missed at the Knolls for the past two years, and we're glad it's back," she said.

Rica Heflin, Director of Resident Services, Berkeley Square, recalled the burst of energy that began with their partnership with ILR nine years ago. She noted that the mission of ILR is a good match for that of Berkeley Square: retirement is just another phase of your life, and it's never too late to try new things.

In her remarks, University Ambassador Dr. Renate Crawford praised the volunteer instructors who share their skills in science, technology, creative arts, nutrition, and current events. She also congratulated them on their recent move to a new space: cyberspace. "By pivoting to online classes at the start of the pandemic, the ILR showed great resilience," she said.

In fact, the pandemic had the effect of expanding the program beyond Ohio, even to other countries. ILR now offers both face-to-face and virtual courses.

Looking Ahead to the Next 25 Years

Judy and Warren WaldronAs guests prepared to leave, one couple was eager for the next adventure. After years of service to Miami, Judy and Warren Waldron both retired: Judy in 2011 and Warren at the end of last year. ILR is something that they are looking forward to sharing. As Mrs. Waldron said, "I've always been a learner, and I didn't want to stop learning after working all those years. Best of all, I can be with people that I knew at Miami." She glanced at her husband. "But I couldn't go on tours until Warren retired too."

And even though COVID put a temporary stop to those tours, you can count on the Waldrons to be first in line when ILR registration opens this fall.

According to Macke, ILR is poised for another strong year. She sees ILR as a connection both for Miamians and non-Miamians. "We're bringing Miamians home to Oxford; we're returning alumni and emeriti to the classroom," she said. "And we're introducing non-Miamians to our university."

Macke's teammates at Global Initiatives agree. Gouvan said, "Judy has been here 12 years now; she puts her life into this program." Rowen Creech, ILR Program Associate, agreed. "It was truly heart-warming to celebrate with the lifelong learners, volunteers, and instructors who have made ILR such a success over the years, many of whom I was delighted to finally meet face to face. Judy Macke couldn't have done a better job commemorating the 25th anniversary of the program and all the memories made along the way."

ILR Trivia

In case you didn't get to play the trivia game at the luncheon, here are a few of the facts that gave Table 7 their victory:

  • ILR has been housed in three Miami locations, all on Spring Street: Joyner House, McGuffey Hall, and its current home, MacMillan Hall.
  • In ILR’s early years, January usually included a potluck
  • Average number of classes taken by the majority of students per semester: 3-5
  • Bill McKnight joined ILR in 2014 and since that year has attended 231 classes, more than any other member.
  • ILR has now been offered for 51 terms. ILR member Cynthia Kelley participated in all but two of them, making her the busiest student.
  • Bill Gracie has taught/coordinated 39 courses, making him the busiest instructor.