As each August rolls around, University of Mary Washington students are getting ready for the new school year.
But they’re not the only ones heading back to class. Fredericksburg area seniors are gearing up for a new season of Mary Washington ElderStudy, or MWES. The lifelong learning program, celebrating its 30th year, offers exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances, and social engagements to local retired or elder residents, including many Mary Washington alumni.
Lectures, now held in a hybrid format or on Zoom, are given by UMW faculty experts and accomplished outside speakers, covering a wide variety of topics: visual and performing arts, science and health, political science, business and economics, history, and much more.
“ElderStudy helps nourish one’s intellectual curiosity,” says Carolyn Eldred ’66, whose bachelor’s degree in psychology set her up for success in her career as a social science researcher.
She cites UMW President Troy Paino’s recent Mary Talk on the value of the liberal arts in a changing world. “I’m a firm believer in that kind of educational experience,” Carolyn says. “I’ve found that ElderStudy satisfies my hunger for continuing learning and exposes me to topics I might not have ever thought about. Learning can be an exciting, lifelong pursuit!”
Carolyn discovered MWES around the time of her 50th reunion at Mary Washington. A resident of the nearby Celebrate retirement community, which helps promote the program, she joined the curriculum and membership committees, helping curate each season’s activities, which are suggested by members.
This fall’s events include lectures on the history of education in colonial America, virtual reality, the issue of food waste, and the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House and the contributions UMW students made to the project. Professor of Political Science Stephen Farnsworth will provide an overview of the midterm elections. Theatre and Dance Department Chair Gregg Stull will offer sneak peeks of UMW Theatre’s upcoming season, as well as a lecture on the life and work of Stephen Sondheim in Seacobeck Hall’s newly renovated Weatherly Wing.
Participants can also tour Fredericksburg landmarks and visit UMW’s art galleries. In addition, there are monthly wine and cheese hours and book discussions over Zoom, and an in-person holiday luncheon and social in December.
“I’ve learned information changes over time, so it’s important to have a strong knowledge base in many different areas, so you can keep up as you age,” says Ellen Brown ’69, who majored in physics but enjoyed taking courses in art, literature, and theatre as a Mary Washington student. “With ElderStudy, there’s no homework or tests – just wonderful opportunities for lifelong learning.”
Ellen first discovered the program from former colleagues at Dahlgren’s Naval Surface Warfare Center, where she worked as a physicist for many years. She now serves on MWES’s curriculum and administrative committees. “We also make donations to support UMW departments whose faculty members have volunteered their time and expertise.”
Janet Kimbrell ’72 majored in English at Mary Washington, also loading up on courses in history, psychology, and drama. When she slowed down her real estate business six years ago, becoming involved in MWES gave her the chance to revisit these topics.
“When you’re retired, you have time to choose what you’re doing with your day,” says Janet, who has enjoyed hearing UMW Professor of Art History Julia DeLancey discuss how the bubonic plague impacted Venetian art. With the move to Zoom, she says, MWES now engages outside experts, such as a recent guest lecturer in New York City who spoke about jazz music.
“It’s such a blessing to have ElderStudy in our community because it helps us keep our minds active as we get older,” she says. “And we’re so thankful to be supported by the University of Mary Washington.”
Visit the ElderStudy website to learn more, request information and register for membership.
-Article written by Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Jill Graziano Laiacona ’04.