By Maureen Werther
The Academy for Lifelong Learning (ALL)at SUNY Empire State College is celebrating its 25th year in existence. It continues to attract more members and expand its offerings each year.
Jeff Shinaman, who has been at the helm for the last four years, said that membership has doubled during his tenure.
“We have a growing aging population here in Saratoga. People who come here from other parts of the country are familiar with lifelong-learning institutions from other places where they’ve lived. So, they are excited when they see that it is available in their new home,” he said.
ALL is hosted and sponsored by SUNY Empire State College and is a nonprofit organization. It offers a non-academic credit curriculum that includes lectures, study groups and social opportunities focused on a diverse range of topics from healthy aging to the arts, religion, classic films and bird watching.
It has 430 active members who pay an annual membership fee to take advantage of the many study groups and social events on the calendar.
ALL offers a fall and spring term. Each is eight weeks in duration. There is also a kickoff luncheon held the week before classes start, giving members the opportunity to meet.
Most lectures and study groups are held on the Empire State campus. However, there are opportunities for field trips to museums, nature trails and historical venues.
They also sponsor three-day trips to places like the Finger Lakes region, Montreal and Newport, R.I.
ALL has an all-volunteer team of speakers and study group leaders who are usually retired from their professions and are experts in their subjects. In between semesters, from January through March, ALL also offers a “storytellers series,” that is free and open to the public.
“Each week we host a different storyteller, many of whom have been published. Some of the stories are memorized, some are read and some are histories,” said Shinaman. “This is a very popular series and, even in brutally cold weather, we get between 75 and 80 people each week.”
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, ALL is hosting a banquet on May 12 at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga, sponsored by Prestwick Chase. In addition to lunch, there will be a slide show recapping highlights of the last quarter century.
The speaker will be Dr. Joel Goodman, founder of the Humor Project, who will talk about healthy aging and humorous aging. He is giving away copies of his book, “Laffirmation: 1,001 Ways to Add Humor to Your Life and Work” to the first 100 registrants for the event.
Tickets are $30 for ALL members and $35 for non-members. For more information about ALL and the upcoming banquet, visit Empire State College’s website, at www.esc.edu/all/ or call ALL at 800-847-3000.