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Appalachian Lifelong Learning to close

Article Published: Mar. 13, 2013 | Modified: Mar. 13, 2013
Appalachian Lifelong Learning to close

An Appalachian Lifelong Learning group takes a trip to Grayson Highlands, Va.

Photo submitted

Learning-hungry seniors in the High Country may not miss any information-packed programs after all.

Yes, Appalachian Lifelong Learning (ALL), the Appalachian State University-sponsored classes for the area’s elderly, is shutting down in June, confirmed program director Mike Duus.

He is leaving the university to write biology textbooks and potentially nurture a solar greenhouse company. But that doesn’t mean the end for a senior syllabus that has included topics like forensic anthropology, Cuban music and the “Day the Mesozoic Died.” For those of you not paying attention, that was 65 million years ago.

As for today, it is Duus, energetic Tabitha Thomas of the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center and pesky 70-something student Ron Pippin who are forging ahead to keep alive the programs that are taught mostly by ASU professors who volunteer their time and erudition.

“The professors that Duus rounded up,” Pippin said, “actually enjoyed teaching us – an attentive group of senior citizens. It was a nice break from classes where kids were text messaging and checking email, while professors were lecturing.”

Duus, 34, with a master’s degree from ASU, said the program, which provided courses to seniors for $150 per year and included an App State student ID and access to the college’s Belk Library, will end with springs classes, as will the name.

“But I will still be here,” said Duus, a native of New Jersey. “I’ve already got a team of 10 volunteers lined up to manage it. I will continue to get support as appropriate from professors at school. And the program will be free. Among others, we need a name and a web site.”

They won’t need a place to meet, thanks to Thomas, an ASU grad who is director of the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center, located at 132 Poplar Grove Connector, which already is the host site. It filled in when ASU closed the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center.

“We just can’t host anything,” Thomas said. “It has to be for seniors and appropriate, and this fits with our mission. We will be happy to continue to host them. It’s a great program for seniors in our area, continuing education, social contact and all that.

“And there’s a model for this – the Blue Ridge Forum – of peers leading peers in learning, and with volunteers managing the program.”

It was called the Blue Ridge Forum, but disbanded a few years back when the leaders of the effort moved away.

“But I’m not going anywhere,” Duus said. “I will not be a stranger to this.

Pippin admitted the classes and attendance should be fluid.

“We’re a mobile audience,” he said. “During the winter, when some seniors go down to Florida, we may have 16 to 20 in a class. In summer, though, we have many more.”

Pippin, who graduated from Emporia State University in Kansas and now lives in Boone, lauds Duus’ loyalty.

“We all really do appreciate what Mike is trying to do,” he said, “but it really isn’t fair to him to have to deal with this, considering all the other things he has going. He feels a real personal responsibility for the program, which means a great deal to all of us participants.”

Those interested need to keep watch for updates on the Harrill Senior Center section of the website.

And also brush up on the Mesozoic period.

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