It’s 3 o’clock on a cold Monday afternoon in February. In Room 242 of Copeland Hall, Bob Lind, a geographer who is well-known for his world travels, begins a lecture in a class titled “A Geographer’s Perspectives on Southeast Asia.”
At the same time, in the College of Education Building across campus, Millie Roark, a former Horizon Middle School teacher, is teaching a class on “Creative Digital Photography,” a class that emphasizes the ability “…to see more clearly and creatively,” not how to use the camera.
These college classes are among 10 six-week offerings in which there will be no tests taken, no grades given and no attendance recorded. There is one prerequisite—you need to be 50 or older. Otherwise, you don’t meet the admission requirements for Senior College.
“We say you need to be 50 or older, but we haven’t turned anyone down,” said Jackie Rosenlof, chair of the Senior College board. “We had a 40-year-old woman who wanted to take Helen Stauffer’s Mari Sandoz course, and we let her enroll. She continues to take classes each session.” However, in general, most Senior College students are retirees, as are many of their teachers, including Lind and Roark.
Senior College was originally the dream of Rosenlof ’s late husband Bob, a Kearney physician for many years.
“It was a pipe dream of Bob’s,” she said. “He was especially enamored with the program at Duke. “
Former UNK Chancellor Gladys Styles Johnson embraced the idea and formed a committee that met monthly for a time.
Among the early committee members from the campus were Drs. Dick Jussel, Jim Roark, Ron Crocker and Jackie. Rita Weber represented Good Samaritan Hospital.
“It boiled down to place and money, and Good Samaritan Hospital and the UNK Division of Continuing Education alternated funding the program for a time,” she said.
After Chancellor Johnson left and the campus experienced budget cuts, the program languished for a time until the College of Education, then headed by Dean Marilyn Hadley, decided to make Senior College a UNK Centennial project.
“I think we owe a lot to Marilyn Hadley,” she said. “When Ed Scantling became dean, he has continued to support the program, telling us, ‘You can count on our help.’”
One way in which the college supports the program is by hosting the Senior College Web page on the College of Education Web site. Classes are posted on the site, along with information about the organization.
The program is modeled, in part, after the program UNK retirees Drs. Betty Becker and Larry Theye have been involved with in Maine. They shared their organization’s constitution and other materials with the Kearney group.
Original committee members Drs. Jussel and Crocker continue to be involved as well. Both have taught courses, and Jussel has been responsible for developing the curriculum each semester.
“I don’t know what we would do without him (Jussel),” she said. Drs. Dick and Marilyn Jussel are both current board members. Marilyn, who was formerly in the Department of Computer Science, has often taught computer classes for Senior College.
“The Jussels have worked hard for this program,” Rosenlof said. In addition to Rosenlof, officers include Dr. Hadley, vice-chair; Linda Harr, secretary; and Bob Smoot, treasurer. Also serving on the board are: Barb Beechner, Ed Cook, Stan Dart, Dot Henry, Leta Jobman, Lind, Scott Matteson, Christine Walsh and Dewayne Wolf.
Membership and course costs are modest: $25 for the annual membership and $25 for each class a member takes. For those who cannot afford the membership and/or class fees, there are scholarships available.
“Everyone who teaches is a volunteer,” Rosenlof said. “There are no paid staff members. Membership and course fees help cover the cost of any books and copies instructors need.We are officially a nonprofit organization.”
The 128-member group draws participants from Cozad, Gibbon, Grand Island, Lexington, Shelton and Minden, as well as Kearney. In addition to the regular six-week classes members have to select from, there are a number of special events and lectures.
“We’ve done a wine-tasting class with Max McFarland,” she said. “And Dr. L.R. Smith provides the group with free wine for gatherings.” This spring, there are also one-day programs on bird identification, the “private lives” of Sandhill Cranes and other topics.
Underlying all of the Senior College offerings and events is the organization’s slogan– “learning for the fun of it.”