March is almost here. Soon the senior citizens, the “grandparents,” will arrive in droves. They have been coming onto the campus at this time of year for almost two decades.
Why are they here? Why do they fill the Campus Center and fill the handicapped parking places? They come with canes and enthusiasm. They are members of Seniors Achieving Greater Education. They are here to attend classes of their own in a program offered by the office of conferences and special programs. SAGE is designed for adults 50 years and older. The average age is 71. Members are intellectually curious adults who enjoy learning in a stimulating, non-competitive environment. They are lifelong learners. There are no admittance requirements, no exams, no homework and no grades. And, as one member put it recently, “I have made new friends which could not happen in my daily life.” Making new friends is an important goal of SAGE.
There are two semesters in a program year, one in the spring, and one in the fall. Members pay a modest fee of $17 a semester or $34 annually. Individuals may sign up for as many classes as they wish. The printed brochure presents an impressive menu of classes. Sixteen courses are offered in the Spring 2016 brochure. Courses range from Mental Health & Mental Illness to English Handbell Ringing to Coloring for Everyone, the newest stress reliever for adults. Learn Chess, Advanced. Study the History of Astronomy. Climb in the Gentile Hall pool for a class in Senior Water Fitness. In addition to the regular classes, which are normally held for two hours a week for four weeks, there are special one-day classes and excursions to places of interest.
With the exception of Mary Lawrence and her office staff, volunteers carry out other jobs in the program. Instructors are all volunteers. And for the past two years a 14 member board of directors has established policies and provided programming. Members of the board plan the courses. They recruit instructors and set up the course schedule. The board assembles the curriculum information into a printed brochure.
The volunteer instructors play a key role in the success of the program. Many are educators, either currently employed or retired. As former high school teacher Dan Ladner noted, “I love facilitating classes for the SAGE program. Seniors are so much more interesting (and talkative) than my former high school students were. Seniors love to ‘jump right in’ and participate to the fullest. They’re lots of fun to work with.” Alice Bolstridge, also a former teacher, added, “Teaching SAGE classes is a hoot. It offers all the pleasures of conversation with mature, intelligent participants who are curious and thoughtful about issues that matter.” Alice last taught 2016 Election Issues.
The University of Maine at Presque Isle has been an unending and welcome source of instructors. Twenty-seven university faculty, staff and students have taught a class since the program began in 1998. In Spring 2016 retired Professor Richard Kimball will teach Genealogy; Jim Stepp will teach History of Astronomy.
Looking back at UMPI instructors, we see Guy Gallagher teaching seven semesters of Latin, from Latin for Beginners through Latin, Latin 1, Latin 1.55 and Latin 1.55 (cont.). His students could recite the entire “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” speech after completing his courses! David Putnam and Jeanie McGowan put on the Archaeology Road Show. Judith Roe taught Darwin’s “Origin of the species,” Brent Andersen taught a course on the U.S. Supreme Court. Student Mike Chamberlain introduced Tai Chi to SAGE. Even chef Jeffrey Schipper participated, teaching classes like Cooking for Two. Gretchen Brissette was an expert on Line Dancing. The incomparable Caroline Gentile taught Ballroom Dancing. And, not to be outdone, former President Donald Zillman taught the most popular class of all, one on the U.S. Constitution.
What are the advantages of teaching SAGE courses? Eager-to-learn students. Pam Crawford, retired
teacher and popular SAGE instructor, summed it up. “No tests, no grading, no interfering parents! Encouraging non-competitive atmosphere of respectful sharing, listening, nurturing. Very different boundaries between teachers and students. No bureaucracy, testy administration, government intervention, limited rules/protocols/procedures.”
These grandparent types, SAGE members, are UMPI guests. They are also members of the university community. They not only come to participate in SAGE activities but they eat in the cafeteria and attend the Distinguished Lecturer Series. They cheer at basketball games, follow the exhibits in the Reed Art Gallery, check out books in the library. Members take onsite and online UMPI classes. Please continue to say “hello” and hold the door open for them. If you want to learn more for yourself or your family or friends, go online at www.umpi.edu/sage, where there is a copy of the latest brochure. Or call Mary Lawrence at 768-9502 or Nancy Roe at 768-7271.