Center for Learning in Retirement

Confronting Tough Issues

CLIR groupThree times each academic year the Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) volunteers develop a course schedule that often includes classes on tough issues facing our society, providing members with expertise from knowledgeable presenters, as well as a forum to ask questions.

One such topic is the huge problem of crumbling home foundations, currently being discussed by the state legislature. In February 2017, CLIR members heard contractor Salvatore De Sciscio identify the source of the problem, a mineral called pyrrhotite that was unknowingly mixed in with concrete used to build hundreds of homes. He also discussed possible solutions. In a second class Attorney Brenda A. Draghi related her experiences with several affected families, recounting what can and is being done to help, and noting the financial impact on towns and cities for many years to come, as the greatly reduced value of the homes shrinks the property tax base. Both classes were well attended, and led to thoughtful discussions among participants and speakers.

25 Years of Lifelong Learning

Article by Kim Colavito Markesich

Orginally published by

CLIR groupThis fall, the UConn Extension Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary of providing interesting and engaging lifelong learning activities for retirees and other adults. The milestone was celebrated October 19 with a luncheon at the Deanston House in Storrs.

The UConn Board of Trustees first chartered CLIR in September 1991, under the Division of Continuing and Extended Education. Four years ago, the program was transitioned to UConn Extension.

“The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources has been very supportive,” says Stephen Kenton, CLIR president and professor emeritus at Eastern Connecticut State University. “We have a lot of people we depend on from Extension. They not only help us, they are so positive. They’ve just been wonderful.”

The center provides educational classes and courses in a variety of subjects, from history and politics to health and the arts. Membership fees are $20 per term (three terms per year) and members may attend as many classes as they wish. The lectures include single talks and short courses, all offered at the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Mansfield Depot Campus.

“When I retired, I knew I had a clear choice to either spend my time watching television until my mind turned to oatmeal, or I could find things to do that would challenge me physically and mentally to retain my faculties for as long as possible,” says Howard Raphaelson, CLIR member. “CLIR has helped me maintain my mental capabilities by exposing me to a variety of experts in many fields.” Before retirement, Raphaelson worked in the financial department of an international marketing company.

“Lifelong learners have an eclectic interest in lots of things,” says Kenton. “Most of our speakers find themselves ten minutes into a talk before people pepper them with questions. People are very engaged. There is a lot of give and take during the sessions.”

“The audiences are interested in what the speakers have to say,” says Cathleen Love, professor in the Department of Extension and CLIR administrative liaison. “They show up and are very grateful for the program. People at this age often find themselves isolated. This is a way to keep their brains active and maintain a social connection.”

“I visited similar programs across the country,” Love says. “This is by far the least expensive, and it’s run by a phenomenal group of retired people who have devoted an enormous amount of their time to make this program work. It’s the hardest working group of volunteers I know.”

On average, the Center maintains approximately 250 members, with twenty to sixty people attending each class. The College provides extension staff assistance, as well as a location with parking. In turn, the CLIR contributes $6,000 per year to the University.

“We’ve had wonderful faculty members come in and speak,” Love says. “Steve is phenomenal at asking people to lecture. We’ve had presentations from the UConn president and provost, as well as almost every dean. Little by little, the group is becoming more woven into the UConn community.”

“This program is an example of why we need to be reflective about aging. When I went around the country, there were 95-year-olds teaching amazing dynamic courses that people couldn’t wait to get into. In our society, we tend to say that at a certain age we are done. For me, this program has been such a gift.”

“Land grant universities were set up to serve all of the population,” Love points out. “Lifelong learning is a form of adult education and this outreach is critical to the mission of Extension.”

Love hopes to build more partnerships with Extension, the University and the community. “I think there are collaborative partnerships that we could build that would engage populations of all ages with the community in ways that would be very powerful. Including everyone in the work of a community provides us with resources we may otherwise overlook. CLIR is a community resource that has provided an outstanding service for adult learners for twenty-five years.”

CLIR provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. There are no academic requirements.

CLIR classes are offered in two formats: single classes and courses. A single class consists of one and a half hours. A course consists of two or more classes scheduled in successive weeks.

All classes are held at the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot Campus. Join CLIR today, new members are always welcome. You are invited to sample a single class or two at no cost.

Summer CLIR Classes

CLIR group


The Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) offers lively discussions on various topics, moderated by Betty Heiss and Lynn Mardon on Wednesdays, June 28 and July 5, 12, 19, and 26, 1:15 – 2:45 at Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus.  If you would like to suggest a discussion topic with which you have some familiarity, email Betty at or Lynn at  Please include your phone number.  We hope you’ll join us!


April Classes with Lifelong Learning

CLIR group

CLIR classes for April, held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs and Great Decisions.


Memoir Club – Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27 from 10:15-11:45

Great Decisions:  topics in foreign policy – Tuesdays, April 11, 18, 25  from 10:15-11:45

What is The Enlightenment? – Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27

UConn President Susan Herbst – Wednesday, April 12

The Nationalist/Populist Reaction to Globalism: A Threat to Democratic Forms of Government – Tuesday, April 18

They Return: Our Defender and Prosecutor – Wednesday, April 19

Savor the Moment: cultivating awareness using mind-body experience – Friday, April 21

Under the Hood of Genetically-Engineered Crops – Tuesday, April 25

Legal and Constitutional Origins of Racism in America – Wednesday, April 26

Lifelong Learning: February Classes

CLIR groupCLIR lifelong learning classes for February, held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs:

Memoir Club – Thursdays, February 2, 9, 16, 23           10:15-11:45

The Politics of War and Peace – Wednesday, February 1

Crumbling Foundations in CT Homes:  A Contractor’s Perspective – Tuesday, February 7

The Role of the Barber Shop in Southern Black Culture – Wednesday, February 8

Crumbling Foundations in CT Homes:  An Attorney’s Perspective – Wednesday, February 15

Living with Intention:  The Art of Letting Go – Thursday, February 16

The Ugly Side of Cute:  Anthropomorphism and Conceptual Metaphor – Tuesday, February 28

Lifelong Learning – January Classes

string group

The Center for Learning In Retirement, or CLIR is offering classes for January, focusing on lifelong learning. All classes are held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs:


Memoir Club, Thursdays, January 5 – March 30; 10:15-11:45

Making Cladograms, Tuesday, January 10

American Elections: Myths, Legends and Modern Reality

(presented by CT Secretary of the State Denise Merrill), Thursday, January 12

Medical Marijuana, Wednesday, January 18

Being Prepared Isn’t Just for Boy Scouts, Thursday, January 19

CAFE Guitar (live performance and discussion), Tuesday, January 24

The Politics of War and Peace, Wednesdays, January 25 and February 1

Climate and Hunter-Gatherers:  How the Environment Shaped Prehistory, Tuesday, January 31

For more information, please visit our website at:


October Classes with CLIR

CLIR group

Our Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) is offering several interesting classes for October (all held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus):

Memoir Club:  Thursdays,   10:15 – 11:45

The Unknown Kennedy (concerning the JFK assassination)                Tuesdays, October 11 and 18     1:15-2:45

Art and Science:  Are They the Same?                                                        Friday, October 14        1:15-2:45

The Israel-Palestine Conflict:  A Dissenting View                                   Thursday, October 20   1:15-2:45

Vampire Folk Belief in Historic New England                                          Tuesday, October 25     1:15-2:45

Will It Be “A Day That Shall Live in Infamy”?  (Election Day 2016)      Thursday, October 27   1:15-2:45

For more information, visit our website:

CLIR Classes for September

CLIR classOur Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) has planned their September classes. It’s not too late to register, visit our website for more information.

CLIR classes for September are held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus:


Memoir Club:  Thursdays from Sept 8,   10:15 – 11:45

BREXIT: Misplaced Nostalgia for the Sovereign Nation State           Wednesday, Sept 7    1:15-2:45

Preventing Sudden Death in Sport and Physical Activity: the Long Road from Evidence to Policy                   Tuesday, Sept 13  1:15-2:45

From Alchemy to Xanax: History of Drugs    Tuesday, Sept 20  1:15-2:45

The Talpiot Tomb In Jerusalem and Ossuary of “James Son of Joseph Brother of Jesus”        Tuesday, Sept 27  1:15-2:45

If it Ducks like a Quack: Critical Thinking about ‘Alternative’ Medicine                         Wednesday, Sept 28  1:15-2:45

CLIR: Forever Learning

By Cathleen Love and Betty Heiss


The Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) became an UConn Extension program in 2013. CLIR’s mission is to provide meaningful intellectual activities for adults from all walks of life, which closely matches with Extension’s mission to provide the knowledge and expertise of the university through outreach and public engagement. There are currently over 280 participants in CLIR and new members are always welcome. CLIR members are engaged in meaningful and stimulating classes taught by university faculty, community members, government and nonprofit agencies, legislators, clergy and experts from business and industry.

The Center for Learning in Retirement was created in 1991 based on a need identified in the community to offer educational programming for retired adults. The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved it as part of the then Division of Extended and Continuing Education. The positive response of the community confirmed the appropriateness of this outreach effort. Historical documents show that from a mailing to 600 residents within a 15-mile radius of Storrs, 200 people attended the first meeting and another 150 were interested in learning more. The program “clearly tapped a nerve and opened an opportunity for the University to serve a population we have ignored in the past.

Members of CLIR meet in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere in the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot Campus. Ample parking is available and the cottages are handicapped accessible. There are no academic requirements to participate in CLIR and no tests, term papers or age limitations. CLIR staffing and teacher are volunteers.

All of the classes meet during the day, Monday through Friday from 10:15 am to 11:45 am or 1:15pm to 2:45 pm. CLIR operates on a three-session schedule: fall, winter and spring. Each session offers up to a dozen single classes and approximately eight courses. A course may be as short as two weeks or as long as eight.

The program offers a buffet of topics. Classes have been offered on current events like Global Climate Change and School Reform or topics related to history, literature and the arts, science and religion. For those who enjoy writing, each session has a Memoir Club that meets every Thursday morning for nine weeks. Recent speakers have included the Presidents and several Deans from both Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut.

Membership in CLIR enriches the minds and broadens the horizons of all who participate. It also affords an opportunity to meet new people and form friendships. This happens in the classroom and during the social time that is organized at each session. Participants in CLIR have the opportunity to discuss issues and concerns in a safe environment where everyone is welcome.

CLIR is a membership based, self-supporting organization led by volunteers. The cost to belong is $25 per member for each session and that allows the opportunity to take any and all courses. New members may join at any time during the year. A current schedule is posted on the website: Any questions about the program can be answered by the UConn Extension administrative liaison, Cathleen Love, Ph.D. or the CLIR staff support, Marilyn Diaz at (860) 570-9012.

Classes being offered in May and June include:

Memoir Club
Members are encouraged to write their memoirs and to read portions of their writings in our sessions.  You may request and receive critiques.  You may request and receive critiques.  All writing will be done outside of the club.
Thursdays Apr 2 – June 4,  10:15 – 11:45 AM
Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
“May dreams lead to midsummer madness and a tempest of emotions.  Reality is “Fantasy is Imagination.”…
Facilitated by Compton Rees, English Emeritus, UConn
Tuesdays April 21 – May 5, 1:15 – 2:45
Phenomenology and Existentialism 
Facilitated by UConn professor Jerry Phillips, these four classes examine the philosophies of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. 
Fridays Apr 10 – May 1, 10:15 – 11:45 AM  
Films About Oldies…LikYou and Me
Harry and Tonto, The Butterfly, The Lunchbox, and Away from Her are the four films to be shown and discussed. Facilitated by UConn Emeritus Josef Gugler.
Tuesdays Apr 21 – May 12, 10:15 – noon  
Race in the Post-Racial United States:  From Jim Crow to the New Racism
Facilitated by UConn Professor Matthew Hughey
Monday Apr 27, 10:15 – 11:45
Reflections and Confessions of an Educational Leader
When it comes to meaningful school reform, why must it feel as if we are walking through molasses?
Facilitated by Mark Cohan, Ph.D., author of Reflections and Confessions of an Educational Leader, based on his 35-year career in CT schools
Thursday May 7, 1:15 – 2:45
Mexican Culture, Language and Identity
Measuring identity differences across culture and language is not easy, and self-reporting presents methodological problems.  Three studies that use alternative approaches to self-reports are discussed.
Facilitated by Nairan Ramirez-Esparza, UConn Assistant Professor of Psychology
Thursday May 14, 1:15 – 2:45
Transition and Torture:  All for the Sake of Beauty
To achieve the current fad in beauty, women throughout the centuries have used artificial means, such as the corset.  Even today they continue to abuse their bodies for the sake of beauty.
Facilitated by Laura Crow, Director of Design, UConn Department of Dramatic Arts
Monday May 18, 1:15 – 2:45
Wildlife in Our Backyards
In our rural area we’re fortunate that abundant wildlife surrounds us.  What may surprise you is its diversity and what it is up to when you’re not looking.  ‘Camera traps’ capture hidden animal behaviors going on under our noses.
Facilitated by Kurt Schwenk, UConn Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thursday May 21, 1:15 – 2:45
The Logic of Russian Actions in Ukraine
Since last spring’s Crimean invasion and bloody insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the West has repeatedly rebued and sanctioned Russia.  What explains the behavior of the Russian government?  What is Putin’s rationale?  What, if anything, can resolve this conflict?
Facilitated by Oksan Bayulgen,  UConn Associate Professor of Political Science
Friday, May 22, 10:15 – 11:45
Reiki is gaining popularity as an effective, integrative health modality for stress management and relaxation.  Bette will bring her reiki table and offer the opportunity to experience a mini-reiki session.
Facilitated by Bette Giordana, Director of the Reiki and wellness Center of CT, certified in Japan and USA
Wednesday May 27, 10:15 – 11-45
Alzheimer’s:  Strategies for Caregivers
Her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease led Joyce in a new direction, extending her interest and expertise into the wor4ld of dementia and its toll on caregivers.
Facilited by Joyce Donohoo, M.A., former grief counselor, psychotherapist and lecturer on “Death and Dying.”
Wednesday May 27, 1:15 – 2:45
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Garden Pests
Insects, plant diseases and weeds may threaten our gardens.  To find ways to deal with them that are safe for our families, communities and wildlife, IPM takes a science-based approach using economically and environmentally sound methods.
Facilitated by Donna Ellis, Senior Extension Educator for UConn’s Department of Landscape Architecture
Monday June 1, 10:15 – 11:45
Being a Firefighter / EMT
Fighting fires, saving lives, ongoing training and commitment.
Facilitated by James York, career firefighter in Mansfield
Tuesday June 2, 1:15 – 2:45
American Composer Edward MacDowell
Facilitated by Herb Richardson, pianist and musicologist, who will discuss this important American composer and give a performance.
Wednesday June 1, 10:15 – 11:45