Lifelong learning in South Bend celebrates 42 years of classes
By Jennifer Miller
This autumn, the Forever Learning Institute in South Bend — a ministry of St. Therese, Little Flower Parish — will celebrate 42 years of offering classes for those 50 years of age “and better.” FLI believes in the importance of challenging educational classes for the older adult population, and in fact, over 100 classes per semester are taught by 120 volunteer instructors.
The width and breath of the classes is truly stunning. From cooking Dim Sum and learning Polish, Hebrew or Arabic to improving I-Pad skills and sweating though Zumba, the courses truly educate the mind, body and soul. Almost every academic interest and hobby is addressed — all for the sake of learning and growth.
The fee to join is minimal, and the classes feature no tests or grades. But the community, rich learning experience and personal growth draw participants to return each year.
“You can come and expand your horizons spiritually, physically, intellectually and emotionally,” board Director Elsie Nemeth enthusiastically explained. “People find a home away from home here — as well as so much enjoyment. We are all about lifelong learning.”
New this semester is a Forever Learning Band at Music Village. Interested students with musical background and ability can join together to practice and play the classics, such as “6 Trombones.” Tim McBride, FLI board member, is leading the class and looking forward to the new initiative.
Another new course, “Okuyamba,” will be taught be Cyndy Searfoss, MA. It’s a course on delivering palliative care and best practices from both Uganda and the United States, offered in partnership with the Hospice Foundation.
All of the institute’s instructors are volunteers. Nemeth explained that this is because they see teaching at FLI as a “way to give back to the community.”
Daniel Csanyi, who is offering a particularly unique class this semester, is one example of that spirit of giving back: He feels that the South Bend community offered him a second home. A native of Hungary, Csanyi will narrate his personal experience of living in the Soviet-occupied and Communist-ruled country between 1945 and 1950, the year he escaped across the Iron Curtain to Austria. More of a presentation of his personal memoirs than a history lesson, participants will hear what life was like under a Communist dictatorship.
“The participants are motivated to be there. They are very interested, intellectual and want to enjoy something completely different,” literature instructor Steve Gable noted.
Gable is a retired neurologist who originally studied English at the University of Notre Dame. He began teaching literature through yearly St. Joseph County Library lectures on the book. Those lectures evolved into a course that he has instructed for the past three years. He and the students have studied classics, such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Moby Dick.” This semester they will look at works by William Faulkner: “The Sound and the Fury” and “Go Down, Moses.”
“There are groupies who return to the same classes, as well as new participants who have a love of literature. This class offers them the discipline to read a book they haven’t (read) in awhile, or never have. Then they can say, ‘I actually read Moby Dick,’” Gable pointed out.
James Field, another literature instructor, also personally enjoyed the classes he took at FLI as a student.
“The participants are intelligent, motivated and enthusiastic to read the books,” he said. The classes he teaches focus on 19th and early 20th century novels by Dickens, Chekhov and Dostoevsky. He will be leading a course on “Vanity Fair” this fall.
The majority of courses meet at the Forever Learning Institute, next to St. Therese, Little Flower Parish, 54191 Ironwood Road in South Bend. Registration for the fall semester begins Aug. 30.