The Lifetime Learners Institute at Norwalk Community College is among the largest of over 200 Lifelong Learning Institutes in North America. The organizations now called Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) used to be called Institutes for Learning in Retirement (ILRs).
The ILR movement that began at New York’s New School in 1962 had about 50 loosely organized programs by 1985. At that point, Elderhostel and the ILR movement joined forces, and the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN) was formed to help groups organize.
In 1989, NCC professor Dr. Eileen Pennino was looking at the roles of senior adults in community colleges. From among the senior adults who were taking college classes, she convened a Senior Advisory Group that met for two years.
In 1991, three of the group’s members got together to explore the notion of starting an ILR at NCC: Saul Dursht, Sylvia Polokoff, and Nathan Schwartz. They met with Frank Morgan, Dean of Continuing Education, and Lynn Boyar. With the help of EIN, they started working on an Affiliation Agreement between Lifetime Learners Institute and Norwalk Community College.
In 1992, LLI was officially formed, and NCC designated Lynn Boyar as a permanent member of the Board as liaison for the College. LLI’s first semester began in October with 11 study groups.
In the beginning, the study groups were set up for peer-to-peer learning, with facilitators on hand to move the conversation along. As the organization and class sizes grew, the role of facilitators grew as well. Today, in Spring and Fall, LLI facilitators teach over 40 courses and lead lively class discussions.