Glendon’s seniors give back to students

When seniors arrive on the Glendon campus for Living & Learning in Retirement (LLIR) classes on Fridays, they are full of enthusiasm, ready to learn and eager to stay in contact with the world and the younger generation. There is a positive buzz in the hallways of the Glendon campus as these dedicated professionals discuss what they’ve learned that week.

Right: LLIR marks its 35th anniversary with a celebration and cake

The LLIR program marked its 35th successful year at Glendon with a public celebration on Friday, Sept. 19. Members of LLIR were invited to join the Glendon community for coffee and cake, while listening to speakers who reviewed the LLIR’s history and achievements. In addition, the LLIR donated $25,000 to the Friends of Glendon (FoG), a volunteer organization disbursing financial help to Glendon students based on need or academic merit.

The third-age learning movement, which began in 1973, advocates learning in later life. At Glendon, the Living & Learning in Retirement Group embraced a concept of a university lecture series, run by seniors, which offered nourishment for the mind. The group was one of the first in Canada when, in the fall of 1973, it offered enrolment in Canadian studies courses to its members. The first class attracted 144 registrants. Today, 713 active members can choose from four courses each term covering a range of subjects on history, politics, science and the arts in Canada and beyond. There are also 105 people on a capped waiting list, who are ready to start their learning journey.

Member feedback shows that participants enjoy the enthusiasm and high level of content provided by the lecturers, many of whom are on York’s faculty. There are now more than 30 similar organizations in Ontario (and numerous others in the rest of the country) – including groups at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and George Brown College.

Above: From left, LLIR members Carol Attridge, Carolyn Thomas, Ann McKibbon, Anne Robson and Jean Hughes 

When LLIR got its start in 1973, Professor Albert Tucker was Glendon’s principal. As one of the speakers at the anniversary celebration, Tucker, now a principal emeritus of Glendon, recalled how it all began. “I have very distinct memories of a group of retired persons, who approached me in 1973 with an interesting proposal.” This group had received $1,600 from the Ontario government’s New Horizons Fund to present a single event on the Glendon campus. But they had greater aspirations to create an ongoing program for retired people on the Glendon campus, which they said suited older people, was more accessible and felt more congenial than larger venues.

With full support from Tucker, the group became a reality. There were many details to work out, not the least being a curriculum to define, which according to the organizers was not going to be a Glendon or York curriculum, but one that was entirely their own. Glendon history Professor and Michiel Horn acted as their curriculum adviser and found teaching staff. Horn, now University Historian, continued in this role for more than 30 years, with Professor Geoffrey Ewen of Glendon’s Multidisciplinary Studies, Canadian Studies and History Departments taking over in recent years. While the organizers needed support in setting things up, they did not need money, because the tuition fees fully covered – and continue to cover – expenses. 

Left: The past presidents of Glendon’s LLIR

LLIR members have demonstrated outstanding citizenship over the years by giving back to the Glendon community. In 1998, on their 25th anniversary, they established a $25,000 service bursary fund for Glendon students, as well as donating $5,000 for audiovisual upgrading for classrooms and an additional $18,000 to the FoG during regular University-wide fundraising. On their 30th anniversary in 2003, they presented a cheque for $15,000 for additional audiovisual refurbishing in Glendon’s lecture halls and $3,500 as a donation to the FoG for students in need. 

LLIR members do much more than donate money. They have invited students far away from home to their own homes for holiday dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they have shared their knowledge and provided mentorship to younger members of the college’s community.

Right: LLIR President Nancy Christie (left), Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts and Friends of Glendon President Chad Craig with the $25,000 cheque

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri observed in his address: "At York, we talk a lot about accessibility. This usually refers to the physical aspects of the campuses, enabling students with different challenges to attend; or to tuition fees which some students may not be able to afford. But LLIR puts another meaning to accessibility, referring to a life-long access to learning. Retired learners and young students have much to teach each other. Life experience is a very important asset. We would like to thank all of you for your generous, ongoing support of our young people, in such a variety of ways.”

“Glendon is our educational home away from home," said LLIR president Nancy Christie. “This beautiful campus and its helpful staff make it possible for seniors, even in their 80s, to continue learning, to keep their window open on the world.”

“I explored several educational programs for retired people, but none of them matched the relaxed, positive and stimulating atmosphere on this campus,” said Phyllis Platnick (right), head librarian of Glendon’s Leslie Frost Library for seven years during the 1980s.

“LLIR is essential for my intellectual and emotional well-being," remarked Ann Robson, LLIR’s treasurer. “It provides me with stimulation in one of the most enjoyable settings.”

The $25,000 donated by LLIR this year will fund one scholarship and one bursary for Glendon students. This amount is matched – dollar for dollar – by the Ontario government, as were their previous gifts to the college. The total of their donations since the beginning amounts to $483,246.05. This year’s LLIR bursary goes to second-year French and drama major Geneviève Melanson.

“I am very grateful for the LLIR’s generosity”, said Melanson. “This [gift] allows me to take another course this year."

Left: From left, Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts (left), Geneviève Melanson and York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

“Donations from LLIR help us increase the value of existing scholarships and establish new ones responding to student needs," said Chad Craig (BA ‘06), current president of the Friends of Glendon. “Our emergency loan program is unique to Glendon and just this year, donations such as those by LLIR allowed us to start a book voucher program for students who need help with paying for their books.” 

“The relationship of the LLIR and Glendon is precisely the kind of partnership that needs to be nurtured and reinforced – it is an important benefit to both," said Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts in his address. “The LLIR’s presence on the Glendon campus is a great asset in a number of ways and we are very grateful for their generosity.” 

Story by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny