Program brings courses to area retirees

Featuring foods from Scandinavia, Spain, the French Basque region, Germany, Switzerland and Cuba, a travel-themed party drew a crowd of over 180 people to the Fireside Inn & Suites in West Lebanon on Saturday evening. Hosted by the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth, an organization intended to support learning among retirees and community members, the party concluded with an auction of posters from around the world.

Founded in 1990 by then-continuing education director Steve Calvert, ILEAD, pronounced “Iliad,” is a department under the umbrella of the Provost’s Office. ILEAD offers 50 to 90 courses each year, in addition to a summer guest lecture series and international trips.

Since its founding, the program has educated over 1,700 members, program manager Lisa King said. Courses are taught by “study leaders,” a group that comprises Dartmouth professors, ILEAD members and area residents who volunteer to teach their peers.

At the Fireside Inn, party-goers enjoyed music from each country that ILEAD members had visited through their classes. A slideshow of the year’s travels played in the background as participants mingled and shared their stories.

“Not only do we want to keep our minds alive, but we want to stay connected to other people,” ​attendee and study leader Stephanie Reininger said.

Study leaders and guest speakers have included former ambassadors, International Monetary Fund members and a retired College president.

“Our motto is peer-led, peer-taught,” King said. “Study leaders don’t necessarily have teaching experience, but they’re passionate about a certain topic that they either know or wish to learn about or share their knowledge and also learn from others in the class.”

One particularly popular course that has attracted undergraduates, graduates and community members centers around Alzheimer’s disease, King said. The class pairs medical students and undergraduates with ILEAD members.

While ILEAD encourages collaboration, it is often difficult to attract undergraduates due to their already hectic schedules, King said.

Courses typically enroll about 20 to 25 people, ILEAD participant and membership services committee chair Mary Ann Holbrook said. Courses are located in Hanover’s senior citizen center, various campus buildings, Lebanon College classrooms, the Wilder Center in Wilder and at Kendal retirement community. ILEAD’s headquarters are on the second floor of the Dartmouth Outing Club house.

Past course topics have ranged from “Will the Real St. Paul Please Stand Up” to “How to Use Your iPad,” as well as art classes and global travel. Classes are approved by a committee that recruits study leaders, approves curricula, provides study leader training and collects feedback, ILEAD president Stew Wood ’56 said.

Wood said he particularly enjoys film classes, noting that he took a class last winter examining the issues of the 1970s through film, which focused on the role of women in society, the Vietnam War and the energy crisis.

“Many of us were certainly going to the movies and alive during the ’70s, so it was a nice opportunity to, in a sense, go back and address issues and to what extent have we worked through them as a nation,” Wood said.

According to the organization’s 2013 report, the most recent available, over 1,000 community members attended the year’s 21 special lectures. Topics ranged from pirates to Mormonism. Over 150 courses were offered that year.

Despite maintaining three paid staff members, ILEAD is self-sufficient, King said. Membership and course fees cover the salaries, and participants pay full costs for classes that involve foreign travel.

To help support future endeavors and expand the program’s scope, ILEAD organizers recently attended a conference hosted by the Bernard Osher Foundation in California, an organization that gave ILEAD a $100,000 grant this winter. The Osher Foundation has funded 117 continuing education programs across the nation.

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