A lifelong pursuit to learn

While the majority of Albion College students are in their early 20s, in some classes in the city of Albion, the average age of a student is closer to 55.

The Albion Academy for Lifetime Learning (AALL), gives senior citizens in the Albion area the opportunity to take academic classes and attend discussions, assemblies and field trips.

Since the AALL first began offering courses in the Albion community in 2000, membership and community enrollment has increased nearly 60 percent, now totaling 180 students. This winter, six AALL classes are being offered.

According to Katherine Padgett, president of AALL, membership is open to individuals age 55 or older. A one-year membership costs $15 and includes one free class per term, admission to Albion College sporting events and the use of the college library. Additional classes cost $10 and are offered in fall, winter and spring terms. Classes typically meet four or five times per semester.

“The benefits to members are terrific because AALL provides comradeship and helps keep senior citizens academically engaged and active in the community,” said Jim Whitehouse, Albion resident who helped found the organization. “The classes provided are high-level courses. A number are taught by retired Albion professors. It’s not like basket weaving 101.”

Classes are updated each semester to reflect political, social and technological change.

Classses offered this semester include digital photography, watercolor, Italian films, civic reflection, travelogue and British music wrenched by the pity of war.

“I’m taking all of the classes,” said Miriam Daly, Albion resident. “At only $15 to join and $10 for each additional class, it’s the best deal in town.”

Whitehouse attended the Elder Hostel Institute Network (now the Institute for Learning in Retirement) Convention in Washington D.C. on behalf of the Retirement Destination Action Team and Albion College in 1999. After attending workshops on lifelong learning, Whitehouse returned to the city of Albion and implemented what he had learned. Subsequently, a small group was organized to create an institute for Learning in Retirement in the city of Albion, which became known as AALL.

Courses offered by AALL appeal to students with various levels of prior knowledge and for various reasons.

According to Padgett, there are no exams in the courses, although there is recommended reading that is provided in the classroom.

“Some of our members have Ph.D.s and some have never finished high school but are interested in learning in a supportive environment,” Padgett said.

In January, the winter semester began with an assembly featuring political scientist Paul Hagner addressing what would happen following the inauguration of Barack Obama. According to Padgett, past assemblies have featured debates on the future of print newspapers as well as insight from former congressman Joe Schwarz.

Charles Crupi, professor of English, taught a Shakespeare class for AALL in 2007. The class focused on Henry V and Macbeth, and the students received a group discount to see these plays performed at the Jackson Shakespeare Festival.

“As a teacher, I really enjoyed a class of people who were there just because they were interested and who, in many cases, had experience as Shakespearean theatre-goers,” Crupi said. “The interest and commitment of those who attended made the experience very rewarding and pleasurable for me.”

Tom Brown II, Albion resident, is enrolled in this semester’s photography class which he said has helped him to better understand how to use his recently purchased digital camera.

“The class had students with varied levels of experience,” Brown said. “The teacher reiterated, ‘don’t worry about wasting films, its only electrons,’ I really learned to appreciate and apply the many variables digital photography can offer.”

In April, Ralph Davis, former professor of philosophy at Albion College, will give his lecture, “Art and Spirit: Sacred and Profane,” and in September, AALL will hear from an Albion college alumnus speaking on the Super conducting Cyclotron Laboratory at MSU.

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