Celebrating Years of Making Us Welcome


Although Zoom has had many silver linings for LLI and its members, one thing that has been sadly missing for us is the chance to gather together before or between classes, fill up a cup of coffee and a plate with some fruit, cheese, or treats and sit down to chat with each other. We miss it! And that feeling makes us know why we have to celebrate the decade that Martha Nickels devoted to making our Hospitality Room possible. “Truthfully, LLI has been so wonderful to me, it was worth doing,”  she said. Thank you, Martha. You have helped make LLI wonderful for all of us.

An Original Member of LLI

Martha is an original member of LLI. She saw a notice about it in the newspaper and decided to sign up. In moving to Rhinebeck from Long Island, she had in mind the possibility of auditing classes at Bard. When Martha learned what LLI offered, she saw it as just the opportunity she had been seeking. “If I could get a job going to school, I would.” As part of LLI, she didn’t have to beg professors to let her audit, and she didn’t have to commit to attending a class two to three days a week.

Taking on Hospitality

She took on Hospitality Team responsibilities from Anne Sunners when Anne became LLI’s president in September of 2008. Anne had recruited a Hospitality Team, but no one was willing to be in charge. “I thought I would do this for a year or two until they found someone. But it worked out all right. A lot of people volunteered to help and to make suggestions. I was never by myself.“  

A Pleasure to Work With!

“Martha was such a pleasure to work with,” Irene Esposito, our current Hospitality chair, recalls. “She was the first one in the hospitality room on Friday morning, coming at seven in the morning to oversee the setup, and was one of the last people to leave in the afternoon.” Anne Sunners says, “She was always welcoming and greeted members when they came to the hospitality room. She had a small cadre of members who came in to help her set out the food, but she would leave her classes early to check between periods that the room was picked up and to see if more food was needed.” “She has a loyal and devoted committee and always makes sure that everything is in place for members to enjoy. It is definitely her bailiwick and should be named “Martha’s Cafe,” longtime Hospitality Committee member Dorothy Baran comments.

A Childhood Lesson

Martha’s willingness to go above and beyond might go back to her childhood. She tells the story of how she became a high school math teacher this way: “What got me into math was my elementary school principal—a bit of a blowhard who also taught the sixth-grade math class. He gave us some problems with negative number solutions. He said the problems had no answers. I looked into it and learned that there were. That gave me a push to know more even though, at that time, girls didn’t take math.”