Classes Offer City Seniors Knowledge and Friendship

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By Laura Shin After a successful 30-year career at the United Nations, Upper East Side resident Gail Winograd is now a student. On a recent Thursday morning, she treks out in frigid weather to attend a literature course on Somerset Maugham. During lunch, Winograd and her friend discuss the novel they are reading for the class, The Painted Veil, and by 1 p.m., she hurries back for her politics course, where they dissect the upcoming 2013 mayoral election. "In this stage of my life, I have the time to read all the books that I've been saying all my life I wish I had time to read," Winograd said. "This is learning for the pleasure of learning." Winograd is one of approximately a hundred students enrolled in courses this winter at the Center for Learning and Living (CL&L), an organization that offers an array of classes for adults 55 and older. Most of the students are retired. They come from all parts of the city, and they have at least one thing in common: They love to learn. The types of courses that are offered helps the program stand out from other senior programs in the city, said Richard Frankel, director of CL&L, noting that the students arrive with a wealth of knowledge and life experiences. "These are academic courses," he said. "These are the types of courses I was interested in finding when I retired." Some examples of classes offered this winter session include "Reading Shakespeare," taught by English professor Barbara Parker; "Poetry in Performance," with CUNY professor Barry Wallenstein; and "Inside the News," a course that examines changes in news reporting with award-winning journalist Rita Satz. CL&L has existed for more than 15 years on the Upper East Side, but Frankel said they are still growing. While the winter is usually the center's quietest season because many retired adults travel to warmer areas during this time, Frankel said this winter has brought a record number of registrants. The students say that in addition to enriching their minds, the center offers them a place to socialize. "I get to meet people in my own age group, people from the neighborhood and people who I share interests with," Winograd said. "I've made a wide circle of friends. I'm really happy." Socializing is especially important for some of the adults who live alone, said Louise Terry, a teacher at CL&L who started off as a student several years ago. "For people who are alone, such as those who are widows, this is a family," she said. A few years ago, CL&L went through a transition during which they did not have a place to meet. Terry recalled how a group of students still met regularly at a local diner even though classes were not being held. "We missed each other," she said. As of 2010, the classes now meet at the Church of St. Catherine of Siena on 68th Street in a classroom that holds up to 95 students. Classes are typically offered three times a day, three days a week. With a single registration fee of $240, students are allowed to take as many classes as they want. "This becomes a major part of their lives," Frankel said. "They spend three days a week here." The center is able to offer the courses for a low rate because Frankel and all of the teachers are volunteers. The fees the students pay only help to cover the cost of classroom expenses. But the teachers say they are happy to do it. "You don't get paid for it, but these people are so wonderful and they give you so much back that it's really special," said Larry Geneen, who teaches the politics course and works as a risk management consultant. "Of all the things I do, this is the most fun because they challenge you, they fight with you and they really care." Geneen often asks his students what they want to cover in class. On this Thursday afternoon, they discuss everything they know about the candidates in the 2013 mayoral election-from where they stand politically to minor facts about their lives. "His name was Warren, before he changed it to Bill," Geneen says of New York City public advocate and mayoral contender Bill De Blasio. Geneen's career was in the corporate world, but teaching this course allows him to put his lifelong interest in politics to good use. Frankel said many of the teachers begin teaching because they find out about the organization and they ask if they can teach a course. The teachers enjoy the classes as much as the students do. "I taught for many, many years as an adjunct professor, and I've had business majors who couldn't care less about my course," said Louise Terry, who is teaching the course on Somerset Maugham. "When I came here, these were people who wanted to come and who wanted to read the book. The students as a group are so knowledgeable, I feel as though I'm learning all the time." CL&L has something to offer for both its teachers and students. Student Jack Seidman said he is pleased with the way the program is run and the classes offered cover topics he is truly interested in. "I've been retired for about 20 years, so I have a lot of time on my hands, and this is a worthwhile way to occupy my time," said Seidman, who attends the classes with his wife. Other courses currently being offered include "A History of Select Traditions in American History 1619-2012," "Minor Works by Major Writers (Latin American)" and "Spirituality and Psychology in Film." More information about the classes and a full list can be found at

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