According to members of the LifeLong Learning Institute at Immaculata University (LLI), the dedication and support for LLI reflects their love of learning and connections to others. For some members, it’s a lifeline. LLI enables individuals over 50 in the southeast Pennsylvania region to continue cultivating their knowledge, meeting others with similar interests, and staying active both mentally and physically.
To show their support for Immaculata University, LLI, members recently donated more than $16,500 toward the purchase of equipment for the new Parsons Science Pavilion, currently under construction. Gerry Mello of Exton explains the reasons why it was important for LLI members to donate to Immaculata.
“Besides wanting to provide state-of-the-art equipment for Immaculata’s science programs, we suddenly realized when COVID hit how much we loved and appreciated LLI,” admitted Mello. “Not that we didn’t appreciate it before, but boy, we really realized once we lost it how much it meant.”
For West Chester resident Ed Goll, the donation was a way of expressing their commitment to LLI and to the university. “So, time, talent, treasure….we’re in,” he adds with a smile. Spending his professional career as a corporate executive (as partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers), Goll is adamant that LLI made his retirement vibrant and full. Joining LLI provides him with the opportunity to delve into topics that have always interested him but took a backseat to his professional interests. Goll is thrilled to be teaching LLI members about technology and the metaverse and to be a student learning about diverse subjects that he didn’t even realize he was interested in.
Roberta McManus of Oxford feels like the classes she takes at LLI prevent her from becoming stale. As a lifelong schoolteacher, she understands the importance of education—at any age. What makes the LLI classes so valuable is that they are created by seniors for seniors, so topics are relevant.
Mello, Goll and McManus serve with seven other members to form the board of directors for LLI. Donations for the Parsons Science Pavilion were 100% among the board members and they also had strong contributions from many active members of LLI.
Those members range in age from 65 to 96! Seniors can participate in classes with just as wide of a range, including opera, rocket science, history, art, technology, astronomy, languages, finance and health classes and the always popular wine class. Currently, as the pandemic is still taking hold, LLI is offering 30 classes this semester, some being held on campus and some virtual. Having the opportunity for both formats is extremely beneficial. Last fall, when LLI partially resumed with two classes, there were over 100 participants who attended the lectures.
“I’ve gotten accustomed to using Zoom….” states Mello. Many of the members are very comfortable with technology. While others may be familiar with a virtual classroom, they still prefer to attend a physical class. Although the majority of the members reside in Chester County, membership is open to neighboring counties.
In addition to the classes, nearly 500 LLI members treasure the connections they’ve developed with the campus community. And the community appreciates the contributions of these senior citizens on Immaculata’s campus. The value they add, in both tangible and intangible ways, is what makes the cross-generational community so positive. For example, several members have served as judges for various student events, and they have volunteered to be patients to help the nursing students. Another area that the LLI members have been instrumental is in staffing the IU Food Cupboard, which provides complimentary food and toiletries to students experiencing food insecurity.
“The culture at Immaculata is wonderful,” states Mello. “The people are so kind. We joke with the Sisters, and they are so joyful.”
McManus expresses her joy of the “after-class” activities—mainly eating lunch in the cafeteria. She appreciates the varied life stories of her friends and the camaraderie they share over a meal. Mello enjoys lunches too, but it’s the all-you-can-eat ice cream that he insists is the best thing about lunch!
“Working with the LLI board members has been a pleasure and the entire Immaculata community is grateful for their donation to help equip the new Parsons Science Pavilion,” states Susan Arnold, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Immaculata. “Our science and nursing students will benefit from their generosity.”
Goll acknowledges that Immaculata deserves more recognition for contributing to the health and welfare of Chester County senior citizens.
And, just like students for the past century have fallen in love with Immaculata and the campus community, these senior citizens have as well. The intangibles that make life worth living are demonstrated when LLI members greet one another—truly glad to be in one another’s presence and sharing their love of learning with their love of community. The Lifelong Learning Institute is a lifeline.