LLI’s History – The Early Years


In 1988, the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN) was formed to assist colleges, universities and older adults throughout the country to learn about and develop campus-based Institutes for Learning in Retirement. That was a big step forward for the ILR movement, which began at New York’s New School in 1962 and began to spread in 1976, when New School enthusiasts urged other institutions to develop similar programs. By 1985, about 50 programs were running, but without the benefits that a central coordinating agency would bring. That’s when Elderhostel came in. Elderhostel saw the ILR movement as logical extension of its educational travel programs: a way to foster long-term learning for older adults in their own communities. The ILR movement viewed Elderhostel as the national organization best equipped to lead the movement’s expansion.


NCC professor Dr. Eileen Pennino, working toward a doctorate at Columbia University, was looking at the roles of senior adults in community colleges in general, NCC in particular. From among the senior adults who were taking college classes, she convened a Senior Advisory Group that met for two years.


When the Group’s work had wound down, three of its members got together to explore another idea: Saul Dursht, Sylvia Polokoff, and Nathan Schwartz. Saul had gathered some information about the ILR movement, and he asked Sylvia and Nat to join him in an effort to get one started at NCC. At Dr. Pennino’s suggestion, they met with Frank Morgan, Dean of Continuing Education, and Lynn Boyar. They all started working on an Affiliation Agreement between Lifetime Learners Institute and Norwalk Community College, and asked for input from EIN. In Fall 1991, an ad hoc LLI Board of Directors was established: Steering Committee members Dursht, Polokoff and Schwartz, plus Dr. Mary Brackett, Sylvia Barton, Harold Foster, Lucy Preli, Deborah Ray, and Doxey Wilkerson, with Lynn Boyar as NCC Liaison. In December, the Board met to plan for the start of LLI study groups in the Fall 1992 semester. Henry Lipman, Chair of the EIN Advisory Committee, attended the meeting to discuss requirements for establishing an ILR. A list of scheduled events was developed, as well as a list of committees that would have to be staffed: Constitution/Charter, Curriculum, Finance, Membership, Public Relations, Teacher/Facilitator Training/Acquisition. On December 30, using NCC and Elderhostel mailing lists, a questionnaire was sent out to senior adults. Signed by The Acting Board of Directors, it was designed to ascertain interest in “an organization that is community-based, responsive to community needs, interests and wishes, manned and administered by its membership, which would present study groups/lectures/seminars as well as classroom courses on any subject of interest not conflicting with the regular NCC subject courses.” The response was positive.


In January, an EIN Institute Letter of Agreement was signed. During February and March, the Board heard committee reports and prepared a second questionnaire for mailing on March 17 that would also contain an invitation to an organizational meeting on May 13. General organizational meeting On May 13, Lifetime Learners Institute (LLI) began officially with a general organizational meeting in the College auditorium. Approximately 80 persons attended. The meeting established a membership fee of $10, which would allow a member to participate in one or more study groups. Most of the attendees registered as charter members. Plans were made for the first General Membership Meeting in the Fall, to adopt bylaws, and to elect a Board of Directors. Before the Fall meeting, LLI suffered the passing of two of its founders: Harold Foster and Doxey Wilkerson. First LLI semester In October, LLI’s first semester began with 11 study groups: Appreciation of Modern Art; Origins of Modern Art; Current Events (two sections); Caring for the Urban Sea; U.S. History 1850-1870; U.S. History/Novels 1870-1900; Six Short Novels; Memoir/Creative Writing (two sections); and Theater. About 163 people enrolled, more than anticipated. First General Membership Meeting At this meeting, on October 20, the Bylaws (written by Nat Schwartz) were passed, as well as a motion for LLI to incorporate, and for the Board to examine and resolve any legal questions relating thereto. A ten-member Board was established: Sylvia Barton, Sid Boyar, Dr. Mary Brackett, Marion Cohen, Saul Dursht, Robert McAndrew, Mildred Miller, Herman Parks, Sylvia Polokoff, Nathan Schwartz. At its November meeting, the Board elected officers: President, Saul Dursht; Vice President, Mildred Miller; Secretary, Marion Cohen; Treasurer, Nathan Schwartz. NCC designated Lynn Boyar as a voting member of the Board as liaison for the College.


At the January Board meeting, it was reported that LLI’s application for membership in the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN) had been accepted. In the Spring, LLI’s second semester offered 12 courses for 232 members. At the Second Annual Meeting in May, five new Board members were elected: Bob Mulligan, Bea Nemzer, Leonard Pritkin, Budd Schwartz, and Ray Stabinsky. At its June meeting, the Board elected new officers: President, Marion Cohen; Vice President, Mildred Miller; Secretary, Rhoda K. Soloway; Treasurer, Budd Schwartz. The Affiliation Agreement with the College was signed by Marion Cohen. In August, Nat Schwartz distributed copies of the Certificate of Incorporation, which had been obtained with the pro-bono assistance of Attorney Marvin I. Gruss.