Benedictine unveiling Center for Lifelong Learning

One thing all people share is that life is a journey — a journey from birth to death.

We may be at different mile markers on the journey, but we are all on the journey. We may be of different ethnicities, religions and cultures, but we are all on the journey.

What I find interesting about our journey is that we seldom talk about it with each other, yet we often think about it. As we grow in age (and surely wisdom), the great issues that confronted the greatest minds in history confront us. Where do we turn for answers? To whom do we talk? To whom do we share our story?

Benedictine University is unveiling the Center for Lifelong Learning. The center is a unique learning opportunity for people ages 55 and older.

The idea for this center has been in my mind for a long time. I am often criticized for having a lot of ideas. I do not know where they come from — they simply come.

Over the years, I have learned to distinguish a good idea from a bad idea in very simple terms. A good idea is one that just won’t go away. It is like the dripping of water from a leaky faucet. The ”drip, drip, drip” simply will not go away.

My internal decision-making mechanism (the “drip, drip, drip”) strongly suggests the idea for this center is a good one, and its time has come.

In “The Summer Day,” modern poet Mary Oliver proclaims, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Your life may not be very wild, but it is precious, and we hope to walk with you to continue making it interesting. The Center for Lifelong Learning is designed for individuals who have reached a very special stage in life — the post-55-year-old generation.

This is a community that has experienced much in their past five-plus decades. The center seeks to provide a forum for them to talk about their journey, to enhance their journey through marvelous discussions and activities, and to introduce them to many new friends who are also on the journey.

While the center is part of Benedictine University, there will be no tests, no grades and no admission requirements, and participants choose the activities in which they are interested.

A variety of formats will be used, including classroom courses, seminars, group meetings, trips, etc. and there will always be time to get to know one another.

Months ago, the center’s planning team researched educational and learning needs of older adults in the Lisle, Naperville, Lombard and Downers Grove areas. A website was created (, applications for grants are being written and a potential curriculum has been established for the first year.

Once very long ago, Aristotle said, “Don’t waste your philosophy on the young.”

That is a rather unkind statement, but it is true of the developmental stage of college students. Aristotle believed the issues with which philosophy deals are far above the heads of young people. They have simply not lived long enough to be able to “do” philosophy. Unfortunately, (at least in Aristotle’s mind) the first course most people take in college is philosophy.

In a kindred spirit, Rene Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, dedicated himself to “Reading the book of the world” before he penned his philosophical works.

“Reading the book of the world” meant living in the world and experiencing as much as possible before engaging in philosophical pursuits that address life’s most perplexing and important questions.

Descartes felt individuals were ill-prepared to do philosophy until they had fully tasted what life had to offer. Less than a decade before his death, he finally felt ready to formulate his philosophy — a philosophy that set the course of modern thought. In Descartes’ sense, we have all read the book of the world. Maybe now it is time for us to discuss it.

People 55 and older are invited to attend one of two (or both if they wish) introductory events from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, April 7 and 9, at the Krasa Student Center on Benedictine’s main Lisle campus. These events are designed to acquaint prospective participants with this unique program and give them the opportunity to learn about the good times we have in store for them.

The event will include introductions of the Center for Lifelong Learning Advisory Board, which is comprised of representatives from the university and community who are very interested in and helped design this unique program. There will be time to get to know each other, network and discuss.

Additionally, there will be a multimedia presentation by Jose Salgado, an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine and a staff member of the Adler Planetarium, Saturday, April 9. Hors d’oeuvres and a jazz band will help complete the evening.

Please come to learn more about this program and to help us plan its future.

The first three-session course begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at the Margaret and Harold Moser Center for Adult and Professional Studies, 1832 Centre Point Circle in Naperville. I will be the facilitator. My age puts me on par with all of you who sign up, so I’m looking forward to welcoming you to a unique experience and beginning a dialogue on our life’s journey — thus far.

For more information about the Center for Lifelong Learning, I encourage you to call center Director Stephen Nunes at (630) 829-1372.

Join us on the journey.

Ÿ William J. Carroll is president of Benedictine University. His column appears monthly in Neighbor.