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Smith: Opportunities for lifelong learning at NIU

After another record-breaking term this spring, the Lifelong Learning Institute prepares for what appears to be a stellar array of offerings for the summer session.

As a retiree, I’ve really enjoyed LLI as a way of keeping my mind active, while making new friends and learning new things “just for the fun of it.”  

LLI is totally member-driven and receives administrative support from Northern Illinois University’s External Programming Office.

On tap this summer are five study groups on a wide array of different topics. Each group will run for four weeks, starting July 9, 10 or 11, with two each on Tuesday and Wednesday, and one on Thursday.

On Tuesday mornings, long-time LLI convener Dick Dowen will host “The Meaning of Gettysburg,” an examination of how some of the richest farmland in America became a massive killing ground during the Civil War in 1863.  This will be another in a number of Civil War groups convened by Dowen, a professor and chairman emeritus of NIU’s Department of Finance. 

Tuesday afternoons will feature “The Learning Mystique,” hosted as the fifth annual summer film festival by movie aficionado Brad Pietens. The retired former NIU external programs director says the four films shown “will explore the dynamics of learning through different perspectives, challenging basic ideas about teaching and learning.”  The quartet of movies are “Dead Poets Society,” “Stand and Deliver,” “Finding Forrester” and “Half Nelson.” 

“Food for Thought: Three Vegetables and Chocolate” is the title of the study group convening Wednesday mornings by retired nurse and relative LLI newcomer Gail Venteau. She will engage four speakers – a trio on ways to cook and enjoy vegetables and one speaker who will explain “yummy ways to prepare chocolate.” 

On Wednesday afternoons, a number of local medical professionals will be featured as Venteau and veteran LLI convener Jan Modloff spotlight “Medications and Medical Issues.” Pharmacists Ann and Tim Lehan will speak about the typical medicinal profile of a person older than 55. Psychiatrist Tom Kirts will explain how the brain changes with age and the signs, symptoms and medications for dementia, and photochemist James Dillon will discuss what aging people can do to slow the deterioration of vision.

Summer’s final LLI offering will feature longtime convener Sue Stelling, who will accompany class members on Thursday afternoons for four local tours in a class called “Something Old, Something New.” Sites to be visited include Kishwaukee College’s new and remodeled buildings, the new addition to the DeKalb County Courthouse, the new residence hall at NIU, and a tour of two facilities with “across the street” locales, the Sycamore Police Department and the DeKalb County Community’s Foundation’s Depot.

LLI is open to anyone older than 50 with a sense of curiosity and love of learning. There is no homework, no exams and no attendance requirements. There are four terms each year: winter, spring, summer and fall. This past spring, more than 125 people took part. Most classes are held in NIU’s Holmes Student Center.

Especially exciting that in addition to being a class “student,” LLI provides the chance for members to become conveners, who often are retired educators, or simply folks like me, who want to share their background or interests with others.

To register or for more information, visit the Lifelong Learning Institute website at LLI also is on Facebook at Northern Illinois University Lifelong Learning, and the office can be reached at 815-753-5200.

Come join us. This summer will provide a great way to introduce yourself as a newcomer or a wonderful opportunity to spend a few mornings or an afternoon with LLI friends.

• Smith is a longtime DeKalb resident who worked in the area for 40 years. Now retired, he remains involved in many campus activities including Lifelong Learning Institute and development and hospitality efforts for this fall’s IHSA football championships. 

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