Message from our President
As I write this on a dreary, rainy Saturday in December I am amazed at the myriad activities within our remarkable organization. The well-attended fall session wrapped up recently with a fascinating presentation on the history of Maine food and many are happily enrolled in Pete Riley’s class on “War, Protest and Great Music,” a special December offering. Over 40 of us visited (via Zoom) the Planetarium at University of Maine in Orono, and six members of the Board of Directors attended a workshop on board development presented by the Maine Association of Nonprofits. The 19th edition of the Corona Chronicles was recently mailed featuring reflections and photographs of our animal friends. Pandemic or not we have stayed happily and busily engaged in Senior College programs and committees.
None of this would occur were it not for those singular and special individuals who volunteer as teachers, hosts, committee and Board members day after day and year after year. It is not easy to thank so many for so much especially during this time of social distancing and isolation. Nothing would be more welcome than the opportunity to personally thank each of you who have made this a successful and exciting fall session.
As 2020 draws to a close we are preparing for the Winterim session that kicks off with Susan Conard’s course on Climate Change, a preparatory presentation to the Camden Conference. We have invited several high school groups to sit in on this important course for we believe this is an issue that will be of major import in their lives. In addition there are, as always, a selection of courses to challenge you, entertain you, educate you, and provide an opportunity to gather via Zoom with friends and neighbors. We hope you will find a course to your liking and sign up today!
This winter a group of Waldo County residents including representatives from organizations (Senior College Belfast e.g.), businesses, University of Maine Hutchinson Center, county libraries, and others have initiated a “One Book” program entitled “Waldo Reads Together” under the umbrella of Aging Well in Waldo County. The group has selected The Nickel Boy by Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead and will be asking everyone to join in the county-wide read. Information on this project may be found at Aging Well in Waldo County.
Books will be made available free of charge for anyone wishing to participate who cannot afford to purchase the book. Following the February reading of the book there will be Zoom discussions concerning diversity, racial justice and equality in America based on this engaging novel.
Finally, we can only hope that 2021 brings a decrease in the incidences of Covid 19, a success of the vaccines, and a renewed sense of hope for a semblance of life as it was. That includes a return to our classes, conversations, and conviviality at the Hutchinson Center.
In the meantime we shall keep calm, carry on and celebrate the upcoming holidays with gladness, joy, and hope!
Sixty attendees came to the online Winter Wonderland session introducing Winterim 2020-2021 courses. Enrollment for these courses is already very good. Our instructors also receive great evaluations: of one recent course a participant said that it exceeded expectations because the subject turned out to be more interesting than the participant had thought it would be. Moreover, “the instructor’s enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge made me look forward to being up and awake enough to attend class at 7.00 am CA time. (That is no small feat!).” Issues with Zoom and online participation are helped by assigning hosts to each class. As for reliability, we can still hope for better broadband coverage across the state. In the meantime, we are working on a great roster of Spring 2021 courses.
Deirdre Good, Chair
Virtual trip to a Planetarium
The Special Events Committee brought a Zoom presentation from the University of Maine Planetarium’s Director, Dr. Laatsch to 47 stargazers on December 10. With the aid of some computer magic we saw groups of stars in constellations connected like dot-to-dot pictures to roughly approximate characters, then with another click became sketched images. Then, we heard the stories of the constellation characters and creatures as imagined in different parts of the world.
If you have interest in the stars there were several books and resources recommended: The Patterns in the Sky: Myths and Legends of the Stars, by Julius Staal is a comprehensive collection of stories about each of the 88 constellations. Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey, the author of the Curious George series of children’s books, is appropriate for grandchildren ages 10-12 as an introduction to stargazing.
Several apps for cell phones are also available that allow you to point your phone to the skies at night and have the visible constellations identified. Some apps are appropriate for iPhones or iPads and some are for android phones. Look them up online to find the one that suits you best: “Sky Map” (for androids), “The Heavens- Above” (for Apple devices), “Sky Safari” (for Apple devices).
The stars you see tonight are the same stars your grand-parents and great grand-parents saw. Take a minute to look up!
Tidbits from the Treasurer
While the pandemic has tried its very best to keep us apart and hunkered down at home, your board members and instructors have done a great job of pivoting to delivering our stimulating classes to an online format using Zoom. Initially we wondered how many of our members would make the transition with us. We cancelled the summer semester entirely and created a “rolling” budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020-2021. We budgeted very conservatively at first, assuming that at least 200 members would renew their memberships. As of today 269 of you have renewed your memberships representing $5,550 in revenue – thank you so much! Accordingly, we have revised our budget upward to 300 memberships.
For the fall semester we offered 15 courses that generated $5,220. This amount exceeded our original course fee projection by 25% – such an encouraging outcome! As a result we are revising our initial course revenue estimate for the year upward by 20%. For winterim we are offering 13 classes and as of today they are 67% enrolled. If you have been thinking about ways to stay busy after the holidays, we hope you’ll consider registering for one of our classes to help us reach full enrollments. Gazing into the crystal ball we are seeing the potential for a spring semester that would match the activity level of the fall semester and are using that as a baseline for our projections.
We have been delighted that several of our members have also made an additional donation to the Senior College. We have not budgeted for donations but certainly appreciate any extra funding people are able to contribute. As of the end of November we are showing, despite every obstacle 2020 has thrown at us, a net profit of $4,000. Not only that but we have nearly $85,000 in checking, savings and CDs in the bank. Overall the Senior College is in a great financial position and is actually prospering during this pandemic. Thanks for helping to keep us vibrant and flourishing.
2021 Corona Chronicles
As we begin the 11th month of this worldwide pandemic Senior College will continue to publish the Corona Chronicles which have proven to be popular reading for many of us and friends both near and far. We offer a very special thanks to Janet Williams for putting together the Chronicle month after month!
For this first issue of 2021 we are asking for your reflections, resolutions, hopes, and aspirations for this new year. Photographs, poems, stories, artwork, and statements from the heart are needed. Please forward to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Thank you!