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Volunteer educators add to Lyceum’s success

By : Rabia Muhammad

Lyceum students listen during a lecture offered through Lyceum. The program, which offers courses for students over age 50, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Classes are held in the South Hills Presbyterian Church.
When Harry Lincoln left campus 16 years ago, the former BU music professor thought his retirement meant he would never again stand in front of a class. He was wrong.

Within a few years, Lincoln was back on the Binghamton campus teaching a new, yet older set of students and allowing them too to further their education and learn about his passion for music. He is among the roster of BU professors, both current and retired, who during the past 15 years have volunteered to teach Lyceum, a program that offers continuing education opportunities for adults over age 50.

“Lyceum helps keep the mind active,” said Pat Rantanen, Lyceum’s project coordinator. “The students love it.”

The program, which is affiliated with the School of Education and Human Development and the national Elderhostel, began as an alternative for retirees who wanted to continue to challenge themselves intellectually.

In its first years, only a handful of students attended; today participation has grown to about 450 students and the program has found a home at the South Hills Presbyterian Church.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Claire Bukhardt, a student who has been attending courses for 10 years. “The discussion groups are fun and I like getting other people’s ideas.”

Students attend a variety of classes ranging from 21st century medicine to films of 1939, the Civil War to watercolor painting, and news analysis to Shakespeare study groups. Each class meets four times during a three-month semester.

In addition to classes, participants attend day trips and ethnic dinners to encourage socialization and interaction. This semester, participants traveled to Ithaca, where they toured the Cornell University museum, Paleontological Research Institute and Taughannock Falls.

A recent event had students enjoying a Cajun dinner in the Susquehanna Room with a “Big Easy” theme. They listened to jazz and ate jambalaya, Cajun catfish and other Creole foods. Before the night ended, retired Counseling Center director and jazz enthusiast R. David Kissinger performed and told stories about jazz. “I feel like I belong,” said student Ruby Pilotti, who has attended classes for about a year. “I enjoy it because I learn different kinds of things.”

Among other courses, students can also learn about advancements in medicine — concentrating on issues affecting seniors.

Robert Van Buskirk, professor and chair of biological sciences, has taught classes on artificial tissue engineering for the treatment of cancer and reparative medicine for diabetes.

“These folks are very sharp,” Van Buskirk said. “I start with high school biology and jump to college-level biology and they always make the transition.”

Van Buskirk said the difference between teaching college and Lyceum students is that older participants do not hesitate to ask provocative and aggressive questions. “I wouldn’t be able to lecture if BU students were like that,” he said.

Lincoln lectures on musical pieces played by the Binghamton Philharmonic as well as pieces performed by campus groups. Students want to learn more about music from a technical or historic point of view. “They are more genuine about the subject,” he said.

Lyceum’s new semester begins in January. For more information, contact Rantanen at 777-2587 or e-mail
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Last Updated: 10/14/08