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University for Seniors: stay sharp, fit and connected

Fred Sippel teaching a University for Seniors study group. (Photo courtesy of University for Seniors)1 / 2
Myrna Matheson participating in a study group. (Photo courtesy of University for Seniors)2 / 2

Teri Cadeau

Duluth Budgeteer News

Mary Almly didn’t know quite what to do with her time when she retired five years ago. She had heard about the University for Seniors program at UMD but wasn’t sure if she wanted “that much structure” in her life.

But Almly soon found out that University for Seniors classes aren’t like ordinary classes.

“There are no tests, no pressure,” said Almly. “You can take a few classes if you want or you can take as many as you want. You can pace it to match your life.”

University for Seniors is an educational program by UMD’s Con-tinuing Education department which provides learning opportunities for anyone age 50 and up. It was started 25 years ago in the Hope United Methodist Church by a group of like- minded people who wanted to learn more about the world.

A year later this group joined forces with UMD to create the program which now offers more than 40 different study groups every term.

“We have courses in music, art, fitness, history, humanities, literature, physical activity. We have mad scientists and guest speakers from all over the country,” said Amber Madoll, the program’s director.

Next term’s study groups include such titles as “Murder and Mayhem: English TV Murder Mysteries,” Lake Superior Shipwrecks,” “Religion and Ethics in Cinema” and “So You Think Duluth is Pretty Special. Ever Wonder How it Got that Way?”

“My favorite class was one on diplomacy,” said Almly. “We have two former diplomats living in Duluth and one spoke to us about his career in the Middle East. He was in a room during a meeting between Nixon and Sadat! Where else can you hear about something like that?”

Members can sign up for up to 10 study groups every term for $140 per term or $370 for the whole year (fall, winter and spring terms). There are eight weeks in a term and the groups meet on the UMD campus, although Madoll said the program may begin to offer off-campus and online courses starting in the fall of 2014.

What’s unique about the courses is that they are often taught by members of the group. In fact, Madoll said that “65 percent of our study groups are led by our members,” and the other 35 percent are offered by local professors and other community leaders.

One of Almly’s first-term classes was taught by a member who was one of her husband’s top four favorite professors from his days at UMD.

“My husband went to UMD and he’d always talk about his top four professors. So when I saw Neil Storich was teaching a US class, I had to sign up for it,” said Almly.

In addition to the study groups, US members receive access to the UMD library, the wellness sports and recreation facilities, dis-

counted rates for cultural events on campus, travel opportunities, access to free lectures and travelogues. Some extra activities which have happened in the past include tours of the Tweed Gallery, the Duluth Pack factory and the Duluth Grill’s urban gardens.

There are also several US special interest groups for those interested in activities such as gardening, snowshoeing, and reading classic books.

People join University for Seniors for a variety of reasons, but for Almly, it’s all about continuing to learn and aging healthily.

“Everything you read about healthy aging says that you should do things to keep your mind sharp, your body fit and to stay connected to people. And these classes can do all three,” said Almly. “It’s healthy aging at its finest.”

For more information about University for Seniors, visit its website at or call Amber Madoll at 218-726-7637.

Registrations for the winter term run through Dec. 30. The first day of courses is Jan. 13 and the last day of courses will be March 7.

More information

Who: Anyone age 50 and older

What: Register for the University for Seniors

Where: UMD campus

Deadline to register: Dec. 30