First University of Chicago course under way at The Admiral at the Lake

Admiral’s Lifelong Learning Committee brings ‘A People’s History of Chicago’ on board

Sept. 26, 2016—Thirty Admiral at the Lake residents gathered in the 14th floor Lighthouse Lounge Monday evening, Sept. 19, for their first two-hour class titled “A People’s History of Chicago.” The course, which is being presented on six consecutive Monday evenings through Oct. 24, marks the first time the University of Chicago has offered a course in a retirement community. And it promises to be the first of many University of Chicago courses to be offered at The Admiral at the Lake.

After Toni Smith retired as an executive recruiter and then moved to The Admiral in February 2014, she says she told herself: “I’m not going to join any committees. I’m not going to do anything.”

Toni Smith, Chair of The Admiral at the Lake's Lifelong Learning Committee

Toni Smith, Chair of The Admiral at the Lake’s Lifelong Learning Committee

Her resolve quickly crumbled, though. She joined the Lifelong Learning Committee shortly after moving to The Admiral and has chaired the committee for the past year and a half. The committee has brought speakers to The Admiral on a wide range of subjects, including astrophysics, “Dickens and Victorian London,” “Mountain Gorillas,” “The Evolution of the Flu” “The Glory That was Babylon,” FBI crime scene investigation, “The Business of Theatre Business” and a four-week Governor’s State University course on “Illinois’ Role in the Underground Railroad.”

“Our goal for the Lifelong Learning Committee is to bring real learning content to Admiral residents,” Toni says. “And the University of Chicago connection is something I’m really pleased with.”

Last summer Toni met with Fred Beuttler, Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Programs of the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Chicago, to explore the possibility of bringing Graham School courses to The Admiral. “The associate dean was quite interested in the idea, and we discovered that some their professors actually live closer to The Admiral than they do to the university,” Toni says. “So he said they’d be happy to offer a course at The Admiral if we could guarantee at least 10 people would enroll in the course.”

More than 35 residents indicated they would be interested in enrolling in the first course offering, “A People’s History of Chicago.” Paul Durica, who received his doctorate in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, teaches the course. In 2008 Durica founded Pocket Guide to Hell Tours, a name taken from a less than charitable comment about Chicago by John Burns, a British labor leader who visited the city during the 19th century. A book by Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make, is required reading for the course, along with excerpts from other books.

“This is the first time that the University of Chicago has done this,” Toni says. “And I now have a wonderful connection at the Graham School, and we’re already talking about what would be a perfect course for the winter. We’re thinking they’re going to do two or three courses a year here. I am just so thrilled with that idea.”