The Learning in Retirement Institute at USF celebrated its 10th anniversary with a visit from USF President Judy Genshaft at its winter coffee orientation on Friday.
After congratulating LIR on its anniversary, Genshaft gave a speech titled “USF — Better Every Day” that dealt with the growth of USF, specifically the cutting-edge research going on at the university and the focus of the university to move away from being a commuter school.
“We are a Research I university,” Genshaft said, “and among the top 100 research institutions in the nation. We are different from other Florida universities because we focus on health and human services. We are proud of our medical focus. Doctors at the Moffitt Cancer Center are USF doctors, we’re building a new nursing college, we have the only college of public health in Florida and the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Medical Center is the busiest VA medical center in the nation.”
Genshaft also told attendees how the university’s growth would raise its international visibility in addition to having a positive impact on the economic growth of Tampa Bay and the quality of life of its residents.
After Genshaft spoke, about 20 group leaders from the LIR Institute spoke for two minutes each.
Joseph McAuliffe, the coordinator for the Learning in Retirement Institute and Tuition Waiver Program, said it was fitting for Genshaft to come and speak at the LIR’s 10th anniversary orientation.
“It was nice, in that this is our 10th anniversary at USF and at our first coffee, 10 years ago, Betty Castor, the president back then, spoke at it. So it was significant that in our 10th anniversary we were having the university president speak,” McAuliffe said.
The LIR Institute was started by Lee Leavengood, McAuliffe said.
“She started the program a decade ago with a vision to recognize the importance of life-long learning and wanted to put together a program at the University that would facilitate older people, retired people and seniors to continue their education,” McAuliffe said.
The LIR Institute offers 24 classes during four academic terms for seniors at USF throughout the year. The classes differ from regular college-level courses in that the courses meet only once a week for two hours and the semester lasts for eight weeks.
Although the LIR Institute doesn’t have its own building, the bulk of the classes are offered at USF in the College of Public Health or in the FHH building, next to the Florida Mental Health Institute. Two courses are also offered in Brooksville and several others are offered at satellite classrooms in South Tampa.
“We hustle up space wherever we can get it,” McAuliffe said.
The LIR Institute has seen growing success since its inception. In the fall semester the institute had 450 people taking classes and it anticipates the enrollment for the winter semester to be around 700.
“We have been growing steadily. In fact, in the last two years we have seen a significant jump in our growth,” McAuliffe said.
In addition to helping seniors continue their education, the LIR Institute may also be helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in aging adults. At USF, recent research on Alzheimer’s disease has shown that continuing education may be helping to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.
“One thing they have found in terms of retardation of the onset of Alzheimer’s is life-long learning. As adults continue their education, that does delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” McAuliffe said.