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Living means learning at Athenaeum

"Lifelong learning" isn't just a catch phrase for members of The Athenaeum: It's a way of life.

"We're all here for the same reason," says Burt Freedman. "We're here to learn."

"I love the intellectual stimulation," adds Lois Tucker.

Also known as "Rochester's Academy for Learning After Fifty," The Athenaeum was founded in 1987 as an affiliate of RIT. Today, 426 members participate in programs that include courses, travel, and social activities - all organized by members.

"The Athenaeum is run for and by its members," notes program director Rose Marie Sepos. "They're a remarkable group of energetic, interested and interesting people, and the organization really reflects that."

Marilyn Gillespie (left) discusses a piece of her art with Liz Salzman and Jack Callaghan. Gillespie gave a presentation at The Athenaeum.
Joan Charles joined four years ago following retirement as an elementary teacher at Hilton Central School.

"I've learned fascinating things," says Charles. "The classes are extremely interesting and very diverse. The knowledge we have here is just tremendous."

Typically, 25 to 35 courses are offered during each of three terms that run from September to May. Some courses are led by members who have professional expertise in the subject, but many courses come out of the leader's personal interest and independent study. Everyone is encouraged to participate; silence is not considered a virtue here.

"We get into discussions you wouldn't believe," says Freedman, co-facilitator of the ever-popular movie discussion group. Other recent course topics reflect a wide range of interests, including Shakespeare, the Uncivil Civil War, astronomy, Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her Gift from the Sea.

Summer brings day trips to area wineries, the Shaw Festival, Niagara Falls, and other points of interest, always featuring an educational component.

The Athenaeum's headquarters are on Fairwood Drive off East River Road in Henrietta, just south of the RIT campus. Regular members pay $225 per year, which entitles them to take as many courses as they wish, participate in all events, and receive access to many RIT activities and facilities including the library. There's also a one-term trial membership ($125, applicable toward a full-year membership).

The only prerequisite for membership is age: Members must be 50 or older.

More information about The Athenaeum is available by calling (716) 292-8989, or on the Web at http://sss.isc.rit.edu/~athenwww/