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Never Too Young to Learn

By Jeannette Jordan, For The Saratogian, Saratoga Springs, NY. First published: Tuesday, September 19, 2006,

When I received an invitation from Academy for Learning in Retirement at Saratoga Springs sponsored by Empire State College for its Sampler Brown Bag lunch Friday in the Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library, my interest was peaked.

After all, I had spent nearly every day during race season attending fund raising luncheons, cocktail parties or black tie galas. So why not try a brown bag luncheon? It would be different for sure.

When Friday rolled around, I packed my peanut butter and provolone sandwich (try it, it's delicious) and headed down to the library not knowing what to expect.

Before I tell you about it, I will say it was one of the best times I've had. I met many of the members, as well as instructors. In the nearly two hours I was there, I learned and had more fun than I could have imagined. I even sang in Spanish and I don't even know Spanish, but I know a little now.

Academy for Learning in Retirement is a non-profit membership organization for people of retirement age who share a love of learning in a supportive, friendly environment. There are no educational prerequisites for membership. The only requirements are enthusiasm for lifelong learning and a willingness to participate in the academy's many offerings.


As attendees nibbled on their lunches, a fun program followed bringing broad smiles across their faces.

Photo of Kate Dudding telling at this event Storyteller Kate Dudding told an amazing story about 'A Witness to the Truth.' Everyone's ears were glued to each word flowing from her mouth. What started out as just a story about a man trying to tell his story to whoever would listen, ended up bringing a few gasps from the audience.

The person that Dudding talked about was eventually written about in a book dedicated in his honor. The book eventually became the Oscar-winning movie 'Schindler's List,' a true story of Nazi party member Oskar Schindler who saved more than 1,100 Jews during World War II from concentration camps. Leopold Page, the man who tried for years to tell his story, was one of the Jews Schindler had saved.

Marion Renning then grabbed our interest as she read from her short story 'At the Beach' and her poem 'Waiting for Michael.' I'm envious of her talent. In fact, I'm envious of all the instructors' talents.

John Borel, another wonderful writer, had all of us laughing as he read 'A Little Cuckoo Song,' he had written while stranded for a few days on a windjammer trip. The story was tongue and cheek about a bird and his relationships. What fun! Then Helen Fountaine, who teaches a Spanish class for ALR, brought smiles across everyone's face as she had us participate in singing 'Fray Felipe' and 'Habla, Habla, Habla.' Even though some did not know Spanish she made it easy for the novices, including myself.

The program ended with a Broadway musical sing-along led by Ann Van Derwerker. Van Derwerker, who has been a member since 1995, eventually designed a course 'History of Broadway Musicals' after being prodded by member and leader Ted Alderson. Everyone enjoyed singing several Broadway songs.

Van Derwerker is first to say how much being a member and instructor has done for her. 'We are where we are because of word of mouth,' she smiled.

After the program, many attendees enjoyed homemade cookies and lemonade.

Some faces in the crowd included Claire Haizlip, a member for four years; members Carol Baker and Anna Fasone; Rita Carozza, a member for 10 years; Edna Heyman, who is thinking about becoming a member; and Phyllis Marks, a 12-year member who offered her services as a facilitator to teach sketching and drawing classes. 'He's my favorite student,' she said of Frank Countryman, who attended with his wife Nancy.

'I love it. I look forward to it fall and spring,' said Rita Reynolds, a member for four years. The membership is now hugging around 200.

For additional information about ALR, contact its offices Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or call Marcia Greenson, secretary, at 587-2100, ext. 2415 or e-mail Marcia.Greenson @ esc.edu.

ALR's web site is www.esc.edu/alr.

Kate Dudding (518) 383-4620
8 Sandalwood Drive kate@katedudding.com
Clifton Park, NY 12065-2700 USA
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