Institute offers programs for retired seniors

Photo by Michael Kelly Barbara Moberg, program chair of the Institute for Learning in Retirement, stands by the sign at the entrance to Marietta College on Putnam Street. The institute, which started in 1992, is offering five courses in its spring program.

MARIETTA — One human faculty that doesn’t blunt with age is curiosity.

If anything, in retirement interests broaden, no longer directed along a narrow career path. To satisfy those who seek intellectual and cultural adventure, the Institute for Learning in Retirement has in its 27-year history offered Marietta retirees courses on topics ranging from the history of rock ‘n roll to the biographical and career chronicles of Russian President Vladimir Putin, served up in two-hour weekly sessions that run for up to eight weeks, presented by authorities on the subjects, often professors at Marietta College.

“The cliche is, ‘lifelong learning,’ and there it is, there’s the opportunity right there,” Ann Stewart said. “I’m 72, but you are still interested and intrigued by things, and they make it available.”

Stewart said institute courses offer enormous variety.

“Some are very academic, and others have just been fun, it’s a really good mix of both,” she said. “I took one on music of the 1970s. They covered a year every week. The two gals that did it were retired school teachers. Each week, we’d get a printed flyer with a car for the year, national and local events. It wasn’t just music, it was sociology, too, talking about music and its effect on the world.”

With her nursing background, Stewart was drawn to science courses as well.

“I took one on bugs, another on the immune system, it was learning all the way,” she said. For this year, she has another one in mind.

“The history of technology, that kind of intrigues me, and I’ve already signed up for the alternative religions course,” she said.

History of Technology will trace developments in technology from the stone age forward, taught by Jim Moon. Alternative Religions in America will examine the history and impact of sects ranging from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Scientology, under the instruction of David Torbett, a Marietta College professor of religion.

Joyce Ditchendorf moved to Marietta for retirement, having previously lived in the Milwaukee area

“I’ve been involved in learning-in-retirement programs. At the University of Wisconsin, I was the provider, and now I’m the consumer, so I’ve seen it from both sides,” she said.

She said she was pleasantly surprised to find such a well-developed program in a city of Marietta’s size.

“I like the small-town, historic aspect, and the college is a wonderful asset,” she said. Ditchendorf lives less than a block from the campus and walks to the classes.

Some of the memorable experiences she’s had with the program include parts of the “Great Decisions” series, national courses on the context of current affairs assembled by the Foreign Policy Association.

“It’s a really good resource for staying in touch with the world,” she said. “I also took that course on Willa Cather (a study of Death Comes for the Archbishop), which was wonderful.”

Another program regular is Jacky Miner, former director of the Memorial Health Foundation. She’s been taking the courses for eight years and spent some time on the institute board.

“I take something every session, there’s such a wide variety of offerings, it appeals to anyone with a curious mind,” she said. “Science, photography, history, travel and information on other cultures. We’re very fortunate to have this program.”

Miner said she signed up near the end of February for two courses being offered starting in March: Journey to the East, under the instruction of Marietta College director of Asian Studies Ni Zhang, and Jim Moon’s History of Technology.

“There were things as an English major I didn’t take in college,” she said.

Barb Moberg has been the program chair for the institute for three years, one of a handful of volunteers that keeps the program going. Setting up five courses each spring and recruiting presenters is challenging, she said.

“You have to have a lot of connections, not just at the college. It helps to know a lot of people, and listen to what people would like to have in courses,” she said. “I really rely on people I know, friends, people I hang out with, teachers.”

The lineup for this spring is Journey to the East, History of Technology, Islamic Movements, Folk Dance and Alternative Religions in America. The courses are held once a week, on different days, starting March 18-22 and winding up May 6-10, and cost $30. The weekly sessions are usually two hours in the late afternoon, an arrangement Stewart said she likes.

“It’s a good time of the day, you’re home before dark and in time to make supper,” she said.

Another bonus is meeting fellow students and the instructors.

“Some of the presenters are retired or active faculty, some are peer teachers, you’ve got a variety of people bringing materials to the classroom, and there’s always an opportunity for questions and participation, to exchange and discuss ideas,” Ditchendorf said. “It’s really a good program for developing friendships.”

Miner said it’s an example of the way the college and city bolster one another.

“Programs like this, the breadth and depth that college brings to us, makes the difference in the community,” she said.

To find out more, go to the institute’s website at


Course Schedule, Spring 2019

* The History of Technology, Jim Moon – March 18-May 6.

* Islamic Movements, Janice Terry – March 19-May 7.

* Folk Dance, Becky Wright – March 20-May 8.

* Journey to the East, Ni (Jenny) Zhang – March 21-May 9.

* Alternative Religions in American, David Torbett – March 22-May 10.

* For information, go to