Josette Lee at LLI 10th anniversary

Bard LLI’s Curriculum and How It Grew

Up and Running in No Time

There is only one subject matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations.

— Alfred North Whitehead

When we look at the rich offerings in the Bard LLI catalog it’s hard to imagine that it took just about a year for our founders to organize and launch the Lifetime Learning Institute at Bard College and begin offering classes. Josette Lee, Carol Lee, and Sara Hardman were the main organizers. (By then Sylvia Erber, who you read about in our September newsletter, had health issues which kept her from active involvement.) Bard had to be enlisted, an organization had to be formalized and created, and a curriculum had to be developed. Josette created the curriculum committee, the heart of our learning process, perhaps even the heart of what Bard LLI is all about.

A Passion for History and Art

She was relatively new to the Hudson Valley, having moved to Rhinebeck in1996 from Long Island. Josette had a consulting business designing museum exhibits. As a history buff, she found it fascinating because of the diversity of the collections. “Maybe that set me up for LLI,” she said. “I was at loose ends. I was learning about making books and took a class at Bard with Sylvia Erber’s son-in-law, an artisan bookmaker.” (Josette is still making books.) Then she met Sylvia at a health lecture and was drawn to the idea of creating an elder learning program here in Northern Dutchess.

Birth of a Catalogue

Josette took on the project of creating and organizing a curriculum committee and, as Carol Lee said, “She was very devoted to what she was doing. She spent a lot of time thinking through what had to be done.” In 1992, Jonah and Joan Sherman had established the Center for Lifetime Study at Marist College, a program so popular that it had a several-years-long waiting list. The Shermans were happy to give advice and guidance, and Josette also was familiar with some of the other lifelong learning institutes in New England. With these references, she put together a working committee of about 10 people to produce the series of classes. “We all took our own way to find classes. People came out of the woodwork. . . .” Nine classes were offered in the fall of 2001. Those first classes included Tai Chi, FDR’s Role in the Hyde Park Community, Jazz: An Original American Art Form, Writing Family Stories, Ethics, Morality and the Law, and more. 

Frequent Presenters

So Many People, So Many Ideas

“We also arranged day trips to historical societies in the area. We visited gardens and historic sites. People were so excited about the whole idea because there was really nothing in Northern Dutchess. It came together very quickly.” Bard LLI grew fairly quickly to its then 200 person capacity. 

Josette found some Bard professors who were very interested in teaching seniors who they found dedicated to learning. Some retired Bard professors taught classes year after year (as they do today). And, of course, Bard LLI attracted an accomplished membership, many of whom taught classes themselves. 

Thanks, Josette, for setting the course for our voyage of life long learning.