WUSTL’s Lifelong Learning Institute celebrates 15th anniversary

LLI emphasizes peer learning and active class participation for seniors

Bert Talcoff, 80, has learned a lot in his lifetime — how to run a business, how to raise two successful daughters, how to solve complex algebraic equations.

Still, Talcoff, a retired businessman with degrees in mathematics and business administration, knew there was much he still didn’t know, and that inspired him to become a member of the Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) at Washington University in St. Louis.

LLI — a community outreach education program for seniors aged 55 and over that offers a variety of non-credit academic courses for senior adults — celebrates its 15th anniversary in June. LLI courses emphasize peer learning and active class participation.

“Being involved with the Lifelong Learning Institute has expanded my horizons and my knowledge,” says Talcoff, who also is a co-facilitator for a LLI course on World War II. “It’s remarkable how bright those involved with Lifelong Learning truly are.”

Sponsored by University College in Arts & Sciences, LLI currently features more than 850 active members.

LLI was created in 1995 through the efforts of Henrietta Freedman, a member of the WUSTL Board of Trustees from 1983-85 and 1988-1991, and Jane Smith and Anne Hetlage, both associate deans, with only two or three courses offered to a handful of interested seniors.

Today, an average of 35 classes is offered during each term (fall, winter, spring and summer). Eight-week and 4-week courses are offered in three regular terms (fall, winter and spring), and one 4-week summer session is offered in July.

“The success of the LLI over 15 years is a tribute both to the importance of the idea of peer-learning and the skill and passion with which all involved have brought it so vividly to life,” says Robert E. Wiltenburg, PhD, dean of University College.

Kevin Lowder

Lifelong Learning Institute member Arnold Kaplan (right) talks with WUSTL sophomore Aaron Kacel at the Skipped Generation Writers reading and reception April 30. For the Skipped Generation Writers program, the LLI collaborated with the Department of English in Arts & Sciences to pair 11 LLI members with 11 undergraduate students on a collaborative nonfiction writing project.

LLI offers courses in art and architecture, contemporary issues, creative writing, economics, film studies, history, literature, math, science, technology, music, philosophy and religious studies.

Special interest group courses, such as “Reading The Economist,” “Reading The New Yorker,” and “Current Events” meet year-round.

“One of the best features of LLI courses — other than that of providing opportunities for in-depth learning experiences in a wide variety of subject matters — is that there are no exams, no grades,” says Ruby Lapin, LLI member and chair of the LLI Steering Committee.

“Members join because they enjoy learning,” says Catherine Compton, LLI director. “They benefit from the knowledge and life experiences of their classmates and often make new and lasting friendships.”

Classes meet at Washington University’s West Campus at 9 North Jackson Rd. on the northwest corner of Forsyth Boulevard and Jackson Road in Clayton, Mo. Classes are two hours and take place weekdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Covered parking is available on the fifth and sixth floors of the attached garage.

Individuals may choose to take courses for an individual session or become an annual member. Financial aid is available for those in need.

A formal anniversary celebration luncheon for LLI members will take place at the LLI annual meeting Monday, June 7, at the Charles F. Knight Center on the Danforth Campus.

For more information about the LLI, visit lli.ucollege.wustl.edu. To schedule a visit to the LLI campus, call Compton at (314) 935-7940.