If you feel like you’ve been seeing a lot more old people around campus lately, you’re observations are not unwarranted. Residents of Sun City are moving in and becoming your classmates. Okay, not really, but they are taking classes here. It’s called Senior University, and 600 residents of Sun City are enrolled.
“The program has been in effect for 12 years,” said Mary Kay Pierson, the president on the board of directors for Senior University. “There were about six or seven people who lived in Sun City that wanted some kind of intellectual stimulation rather than just golfing and cards. So they formed this club where people would come and give lectures.”
The program quickly grew from 200 students to its current 600, and needed a new home for its 38 classes.
“It seemed to me that there was a separation between Sun City and Georgetown. I kept thinking, ‘We can’t have this!’ Sun City is a neighborhood, not a town.”
Pierson quickly met with Ron Swain and President Schrum about the possibility of housing classes here.
“The 10-year plan stated that there would be more community involvement. It’s taken about two years, but it has finally worked. We have this connection with Southwestern, and I’m thrilled.”
Sitting in on one of the Senior University classes was an interesting experience. The class I attended was entitled, “Great Decisions.” It was a discussion-based class taught by Dr. Jay Pierson, and that evening’s topic was Russia’s past and future. It was the sixth week in their semester, which is not particularly far off from our current eighth week. There were 20 or so students in the room, not far off from our 13 student average. In fact, nearly everything about Senior University is the same. Held in Olin 111 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., the room was filled with lively discussion, coffee, note-taking, a Powerpoint presentation and a 15 minute movie.
There were quiet students sitting in the back, talkative students sitting in the front and no texting or ringing phones. Each and every student was actively engaged in the lecture, and the life experiences of each student contributed something amazing to the discussion. At one point, I forgot entirely that I wasn’t sitting in one of my regular classes, and only snapped back to consciousness with the realization that I had begun taking notes.
“We are so fortunate that we have a wealth of retired professors here living in this town as well as in the neighborhood of Sun City,” said Pierson. “Professors from University of Michigan, University of Arizona, New York…it’s just incredible. They love teaching, but they don’t want to do it full-time, because they’re retired. But they miss the classroom dynamics, so they teach for us. Being on the campus with younger students keep them vital, keeps them alive, and that’s something I firmly believe in.”
What do programs like Senior University mean for the rest of us? “When I tell my granddaughter that I’m taking classes and she says, ‘Maymay, you’re still in school?’” Pierson said, laughing. “It makes the grandchildren of these people realize that school is something you value the rest of your life. It’s not something that stops when you’re 23 or 24, and you’ve gotten your degrees behind you. It’s a lifelong thing.”