URI holds an ALTERnative
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- July 2, 1999 -- Walter Crocker,
dean of the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education, looked
over the graduation class and smiled. "This is the only class for which
I don't have to explain that Shepard's was once a department store,"
he said to laughter. The URI College in Providence makes its home in the
renovated Shepard building.
Accompanied by families and friends, 24 members
of the first ALTER (Academy of Learning, Teaching, and Enlightenment in
Retirement) class, received a certificate which qualified them to become
Elder Teachers if they so desired. The new "teachers" will share
life's wisdom by using their own experiences as an example of human development.
The new graduates could bring their knowledge to schools, businesses, or
many other organizations. Some plan to teach in the ALTER program.
The pioneering class was composed of Rhode Islanders
who were all retired or about to be. Some of graduates were former factory
workers, businessmen, housewives. A couple members held Ph.Ds.
"Thank you for being the risk takers,"
said Ginny Nardone, head of URI's F-CCE Special Programs Office, which launched
the program in the spring of 1998.
"Education generally focuses on the external,"
said Ed Lees, founder and coordinator of ALTER. "This program focuses
on the internal. It brings people closer to themselves. As we approach the
millennium, there seems a recognition in many corners that we need to revisit
at our value system, especially in civic terms. We can't accomplish this
unless we look at ourselves in human and spiritual terms too. This program
is attempt to help people do just that."
The graduates agreed. Many spoke of their own self
"I'm a senior in progress," announced
Frances Shea. "Writing my memoirs invoked many feelings in me and brought
me places I didn't even want to go. I plan to be an ALTER teacher, assisting
other people along the way."
Another student, David Moran, identified himself
as a 68-year-old class clown. "This has been an enlightenment for me,"
he said, proudly noting that his grandson wrote an essay about him taking
Tom Magill said Dr. Pat Feinstein, one of ALTER's
instructors asked him his favorite word. He told her serendipity. "I
happened upon what I needed when I wasn't in search of it," he said,
explaining he came to class with the intention of writing about his father.
Instead he learned about himself.
"You have learned to never stop learning,"
said Anthony Zompa of the Department of Elderly Affairs who came to the
graduation with some interesting statistics demographics: Rhode Island ranks
third in population of people 65 and over. (Florida and Pennsylvania are
first and second.) The state now has 239 residents who are over 100. A child
born in 1996 will live 26 years longer than a child born in 1900.
Zompa also said he worried about a society that
places value on material items and not on humans, noting that as a society
we place a high value on antiques, but don't seem to value the vast knowledge
of our older citizens.
Dr. Pat Feinstein echoed a similar comment. "I
prefer to say older AND wiser, not older but wiser." Feinstein herself
is a lifetime learner. Now 64, she said she began taking singing and piano
lessons when she turned 57 and began taking Spanish lessons just a few years
Mary Keane, an editor by trade, retired last year.
She noted that when she was a child, she escaped serious injury in a car
accident. She overheard her parents saying that God must have saved her
for a reason. Keane thinks ALTER might just be that reason. Keane wants
to work with other, older students. Her mother wrote her memoir and said
she found some peace. "It's a wonderful legacy."
The ALTER class, Keane says, is about authenticity.
"It's about the heart ,instinct, and the human condition. Its being
able to look inward and reach outward."
For coordinator Lees the evening held mixed emotions.
He was obviously proud of his students accomplishments but graduation meant
they would leave. "They aren't just students, they are my friends,"
he told the audience.
For more information about ALTER call Lees at 401-277-5050.
Graduates of the ALTER program and their hometowns
are as follows:
Gerald Archambault Coventry
Ruth Pettigrew Cranston
Shirley Mogan Cranston
Robert Magill Cranston
James Brown Cumberland
Jane Kisseberth Cumberland
The late Doris Prescott Lincoln
Frances Shea Lincoln
Susan Strockbine Clarke Newport
M. Geraldine Fitzpatrick North Kingstown
Cynthia Carter Pascoag
David Moran Pawtucket
Elizabeth Partridge Pawtucket
Maurice Cleary Pawtucket
Patricia Roy Providence
Mary Ryder Providence
Madge McCarthy Providence
Elaine Kaufman Providence
Mary Keane Wakefield
Leona Figueredo Warwick
Mary C. Braga Warwick
Elizabeth Rasmussen Warwick
Constance Williams West Warwick
Jeanette Van Woodall Westerly
For More Information: Jan Sawyer,