Not everyone thought that an educational program aimed at retirees would thrive in Jupiter as it had in Boca Raton on the campus of Florida Atlantic University. But as I reported this weekend, the Lifelong Learning Society in Jupiter not only took root, it grew to be in some ways bigger than its parent.
But as a couple of astute readers have pointed out, just getting the seed planted wasn’t enough. They credit the society’s founding director Rene Friedman, who was not named in the story, for her hard work.
Gail Greenberg, an LLS student and volunteer, said it well:
After reading your article about the success of the Lifelong Learning Society at FAU’s Jupiter campus, I must add that the founder of this success story was Rene Friedman whose name was not included in the article. Originally the FAU administration was doubtful that an LLS program could be established at the Jupiter campus. However, Ms. Friedman was persistent and, on a trial basis, started the process nonetheless. It was her vision and effort that led to the expansion of this program which is now reported to be the largest adult learning society in the U.S. Through her persistent and tireless efforts Ms. Friedman initiated the program in small rented spaces, established the goals of the program, criteria to vet instructors, raised the money to pay them and ultimately succeeded in raising sufficient funds to build a free-standing auditorium and other class room space. As the program grew, Ms. Friedman hired a small staff but most of the manpower has been and continues to be volunteers. LLS has always been self-sufficient and separate from FAU though the 2 organizations have cooperated during the past 2 decades.
By any measure, Rene Friedman must be given credit for the initiation, growth and success of LLS. She will be missed by all of us who have been students and volunteers.
North Palm Beach
Another LLS member wrote to say: This outstanding program was started 19 years ago by Rene Friedman, under whose tireless and visionary leadership the program grew to what it is today. Rene just retired on January 1, 2016.
The current director Josette Valenza, credited Friedman for seeing the potential in Jupiter and pushing for expansion to the north.
“Rene saw the need here. She went to the executive director in Boca. He let her do a demographic study,” said Valenza, who also called Friedman “the leading force” and “primary influence” on the program in her open letter in this semester’s course guide.
The Lifelong Exchange, the program’s blog, posted an article, The House the Rene Built, shortly after an event to celebrate Friedman’s retirement (scroll to the bottom of that link to find it).
Friedman’s initiative got the ball rolling. And it has yet to stop.
Seniors now flock to courses on everything from Middle East politics to how to catch a spy by the hundreds. Professors say the older audiences provide challenges – and friendships.
To see what classes and featured lecturers are coming to campus next, go to www.fau.edu/llsjupiter.