MARQUETTE - These are classes without quizzes or grades, meant for enjoyment and enrichment for a more nontraditional type of student.
The Northern Center for Lifelong Learning focused on retirees as students, hoping to enrich their lives with a variety of classes and activities, helping them enjoy each other's company and the local community. And now they have been doing it for 15 years.
"It's 15 years of growing, learning, being with friends, making new friends, having new experiences and seeing new and interesting places," said board of directors Chairwoman Pat Frenn. "And that's what the organization does."
Center member Carol Bard hugs a tree during a nature hikes in the organization’s earlier days. (Photo courtesy of the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning)
Then-NMU President William Vandament plays the trumpet during a retirement party in the 1990s. Vandament played a key role in the establishment of NMU?Center for Lifelong Learning, which is marking its 15th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning)
She has been active in NCLL for six years and the board chairwoman for three.
NCLL is a member-oriented group that offers classes and activities and special interest groups for retirees interested in continuing their learning. Courses are offered at low cost or no cost, and at even lower cost to members who pay a small yearly fee. All course fees go to cover office and printing costs, as well as any costs associated with presenters, Frenn said.
But where did it all begin? In November 1994, William Vandament, then president of the university, recognized the need to provide these sort of enrichment opportunities for local retirees.
Familiar with similar programs in California, he set the wheels in motion to start something to meet the needs of specific niche at NMU, organizing the people, including John Argeropolous, then-coordinator of continuing education at NMU, and the resources that would be necessary. Argeropolous is still involved in NCLL today.
In May 1995 a kickoff celebration was held featuring local historian Fred Rydholm and the first three mini-courses were offered: hiking and nature study, recreation writing and local history. Soon, membership grew enough to support nine courses and a new office in the Superior Dome, which was built in 1996. The first president was former NMU chemistry professor John Frey. Now 200 members strong, the organization is able to offer about 25 courses per season, ranging from outdoor activities, tours, workshops, social events, healthcare related presentations and much more.
Ongoing interest groups meet monthly or weekly for lunch, discussions or bridge, among other topics. NCLL is non-profit and is run by a 14 member board. Membership is open throughout the year to anyone, not just retirees.
To commemorate 15 successful years, the group is planning to hold a celebration Sunday.
"We're enthusiastic about it and we have a great community and wonderful plans for a very nice afternoon," Frenn said.
Vandament, the former NMU president responsible for helping form the organization, and his wife Margery, are expected to travel from California to be special guests at the celebration.
"We're so grateful that he has had the vision to see this happen," Frenn said.
Annual membership is $20 per person and provides members with discounted class rates, although membership is not required to participate in classes.
To contact the group, e-mail NCLL@nmu.edu or call 906-227-2979.
Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.