Photo (Caption Below)
Rod Zumbro, Susanne Zumbro, Marion Burgett, and group.

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Janice DeWire, George Heatley, Shirley Fox, and Larry Fox.


The Mason Spirit: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of George Mason University

A Different Kind of Homecoming

Mason alumni return to the classroom at the Learning in Retirement Institute

By Ryan Effgen

A number of George Mason alumni in their retirement years are finding their way back to campus to take advantage of the intellectual and cultural activities at the Learning in Retirement Institute (LRI), an independent organization affiliated with George Mason and the Elderhostel Institute. Every year, LRI members participate in more than 200 noncredit courses on subjects ranging from painting and tai chi to economics and current events.

“In the classrooms and in the social rooms, LRI members are there because they want to be there. That is the atmosphere that makes LRI an enjoyable learning environment,” says member Allen Montecino, MA History '90, who regularly teaches history-related topics at the institute. “There is not a major division between teachers and students because many of us are active in both roles.”

All LRI courses are taught by volunteers, including several Mason faculty members. “I have taken many fascinating courses, ranging from a study of [James Joyce's] Ulysses taught by Coilin Owens of the English Department to a class in world history taught by university provost Peter Stearns,” says LRI member and acting secretary Eileen Duggan, BA American Studies '76 and BA English '76.

Courses are held during eight-week terms in spring and fall, a six-week summer term, and a four-week midwinter term. For a modest annual fee, members, who don't need to have a college degree, can enroll in as many courses as they like throughout the year.

“I regularly register for four or five classes per term,” says Jan Bohall, BSN '83. “I repeatedly take the Poetry Workshop and the Singing for Fun class. Around this base, I weave courses in subjects that lie outside my comfort zone, sometimes in ancient or American history or perhaps architecture or investment basics. Then I look at useful subjects, such as coping with tax returns or exploring family genealogy.”

LRI courses are held at the Tallwood Annex of the university's Fairfax Campus and at Lake Anne in Reston, Virginia. Many courses include field trips to local historical sites and museums. This spring, participants in the Explore Local History class took day trips to sites of historical interest such as the Carlyle House, Colvin Run Mill, and Gunston Hall.

LRI also supports various ongoing clubs and groups throughout the year. Some are academic, such as the Philosophy Book Group and the History Club, while others are more social, such as the Scrabble Group and the Walking Group. The Fiction Writers' Club, a workshop for aspiring and veteran authors, serves as the editorial panel for LRI's own Fairfax Ink, a literary journal of short stories, poems, and other work by institute members.

LRI's 650 members have found camaraderie and friendship that has extended beyond the classroom and has enlivened their social and intellectual lives. “LRI has allowed us to explore areas we never had time for during our working careers,” says Duggan.

Most of the organizational work is done by volunteer members, and while volunteering is not required of LRI members, it is encouraged. “To give back to the organization, I serve on the Publications Committee, where I edit course catalogs and contribute to the weekly newsletter,” says Bohall. “I also work on the Membership Committee to recruit new members and plan ways to enhance the organization for current members.” Many LRI members have found their volunteer work to be as rewarding as the courses they take.

To learn more about LRI, visit or call 703-503-3384.