A College Campus of our Own

Right here in Sun City is an array of college-level courses provided in two terms each year. The Institute of Learning in Retirement (ILR) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023 having provided hundreds of courses to enthusiastic residents eager to stay intellectually engaged in learning.

Sun City is a remarkable gold mine of opportunities. If you never had time to improve your golf game, work on your tennis serve, try line dancing or pickleball, become a birder, try making a pot or learn to play chess, all of that and more is right here. Finally, there is time to explore and ponder new possibilities.

For more than 20 years, ILR has created on-site, an enviable array of classes you would find in any community college. ILRs got their start from a group of New Yorkers who had returned from an Elderhostel trip to Europe. “Do we really need to go all that distance,” they asked, “when we could do so much learning right here at home?” Soon, several New York City area universities were sponsoring programs, then Harvard, then Yale, and a movement of adult learning was launched. Today, there are more than 400 ILRs across the country, some affiliated with universities and some not.

The University of Arizona initiated a program back in 1987 that caught the attention of several SCOV residents. There were 17 regular participants in SAGE (Seniors’ Achievement and Growth through Education) driving down to the UArizona campus every week. But, it was taking longer to find parking spaces and hike across campus to class. Gene Bammel’s term as co-president of SAGE was ending, and the initial attraction of weekly driving was waning. Gene, his wife Lei, and Ruth and Milt Damlich met to consider creating a satellite program here in SCOV.

ILR was chartered in 2003 with a set of by-laws; Gene Bammel was president, Jane Arndorfer vice-president, Lei was secretary, and Milt, as treasurer, deposited a small check to their new checking account on April 15, 2003. It has been a phenomenal success.

Hundreds of volunteer instructors have taught in the fields of history, philosophy, religion, geology, culture, literature, anthropology and psychology. A continuing draw is the opportunity to learn something new in a setting with neighborhood friends.

Sun City ILR now has over 800 members and is still growing.  There are dozens of classes each term as well as weekly Samplers and off-site trips in the Tucson area.