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Recent News

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Kauffman Award Luncheon

Posted: 9:03 AM 5/1/2024
The 2024 Kauffman Rememberance Day and Award luncheon was held April 24 on the campus of USCA. The 2024 Kauffman Award was presented to Carl Fields in recognition of his years of service to the Center of Lifelong Learning and its predecessor.

Spring Semester Completed

Posted: 7:58 AM 4/24/2024
We have completed the Spring 2024 semester of classes. Come back in August to review the schedule of courses for the Fall semester. Registration will be in September.

Relationship with USCA

Posted: 7:07 AM 1/12/2024
On January 11, 2024, the Center signed a new agreement with USCA. Under the new agreement, the Center becomes a program of the University. Heretofore, the Center was an independent, volunteer-run organization with strong ties to the University. You may read more about the signing ceremony here.

History of the Organization

The Center for Lifelong Learning was formed in 2021 by the merger of the Academy for Lifelong Learning and the McGrath Computer Learning Center. Both predecessor organizations were associated with the Office of External Programs of the University of South Carolina Aiken.

On January 11, 2024, the Center entered a new phase in its relationship with the University by executing an Agreement which resulted in it becoming an integral part of the University's Office of External Programs.

This arrangement provides for an Advisory Board with an overall Chair, along with subcommittees which plan for and manage the day-to-day activities of the Center. The Center has the full support of the University's staff, and this closer relationship gives the Center more flexibility in the planning and execution of its many programs.

Below is a brief history of the two predecessor organizations.

The Academy for Lifelong Learning

In the summer of 1989 the dreams of three individuals merged and began to take shape. Ida Crawford Stewart, then Vice President of Estee Lauder, Inc., a native of South Carolina, and a former resident of Aiken, believed that people of all ages should continue to maximize their individual potential. To further this belief, she established an irrevocable trust at the University of South Carolina Aiken (USC Aiken) to create a Chair in the Department of Sociology in Gerontology.

Dr. Robert Alexander, Chancellor of USC Aiken at that time, agreed with Mrs. Stewart and asked Dr. Mary Leslie Hudson, then Dean of Continuing Education at USC Aiken, and Dr. Trudy Henson, then Chair of the Sociology Department at USC Aiken, to present a plan by which USC Aiken could serve the rapidly growing population of older persons within the university’s service area.

Into this scene came Dr. Earl F. Kauffman who, at the age of 82 years, who was seeking a new challenge. Dr. Kauffman had served for 25 years on the faculty of the University of Kentucky (U.K.), during which he organized the Council on Aging at U.K.

Following his retirement from U.K., he continued to work on behalf of the elderly and organized the Community Activity Program at Hawthorne-at-Leesburg, an adult community in central Florida. Upon his arrival in Aiken, he held a series of conferences with leaders serving older persons in the Aiken area. From these meetings he recruited members for a planning committee to develop and implement a program for the community’s mature residents.

Working under the direction of Dr. Kauffman, this committee, composed of mature learners from the Aiken community, formulated a mission statement for what was to become the Academy for Lifelong Learning: To provide opportunities for men and women to get the most out of their lives. By late January of 1990 the Academy was ready to offer opportunities for people sixty years of age and older to come back to school “to learn without having to take tests.”

January 22, 1990, was the inaugural meeting of the Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learning. Dr. Warner Montgomery, editor of the Star Reporter in Columbia, SC., spoke before more than 300 persons at the Etherredge Center on the USC Aiken campus. Dr. Montgomery’s topic was Preparing for the Next Century—The Maturity Spiral, a discussion of the pace of change in our society.

In the ensuing months interested members formed focus groups to identify projects of major interest to Academy members. A monthly newsletter was established to provide news about programs, members, and special USC Aiken resources and events. The Maturity Spiral, taken from the title of Dr. Montgomery’s January address, was chosen as the name for the newsletter, as it seemed to capture the rhythm and meaning of the Academy program. In 1997 the name of the newsletter was shortened to The Spiral.

In 1990/1991, the first full academic year of operation, the Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learning attracted 125 members who attended more than 25 forums, field visits, and special events.

Dr. Kauffman served as Director of the Academy until his death, shortly after the beginning of the Academy’s initial Fall term, on October 19, 1990, having successfully established the Academy that was to continue his dream. Each spring, the Academy presents the Earl F. Kauffman Award in his honor, to recognize a group or individual that has provided outstanding contributions to the Academy.

By 1993 interest in the Academy had grown rapidly and there were requests to lower the age at which people might join. Responding to this interest, the Board of Regents acted to formalize 55 years as the minimum age for membership. In 1997, the Board of Regents removed the numerical limit and formalized “mature adult” as the age requirement for membership.

From its modest beginnings in 1989, the Academy evolved into a multi-faceted program that provided hundreds of area adults with a wide range of fun and educational opportunities. Each semester the Academy offered short courses and events covering a broad span of interests, ranging from art, music, literature, and science to hobbies, cooking, current events, religion, and both local and broader ranging history.

Source: some of the above content was taken from the brochure from the first Kauffman Memorial Lecture (now called Kauffman Remembrance Day), March 22, 1991. If you would like to see more detail about Dr. Kauffman and the early days of the Academy for Lifelong Learning, you may read or download the brochure here.

McGrath Computer Learning Center

By the late 1990s computers had become integral to most businesses and personal computers were more and more prevalent in homes. People who were already retired and those who did not work outside the home tended to miss the computer age tidal wave, but seemed to recognize that personal computers were here to stay. They wanted an opportunity to learn about and participate in the technology age.

In 1997, Bruce McGrath, a retired IBM executive, was looking for something to do. He learned about the national organization SeniorNet, whose mission was to teach seniors about computers. SeniorNet provided training to volunteers and training materials to be modified locally. Bruce began work to establish a SeniorNet Learning Center in Aiken. And so the Aiken branch of SeniorNet, sponsored by USC Aiken, was created. Members of the Aiken Computer Club became SeniorNet volunteers to serve as instructors to provide basic computer training to seniors in Aiken.

USC Aiken provided the classroom, a converted storage room in the basement of the Gregg Library. The first classes were held in August 1999.

As the focus of SeniorNet classes was to introduce seniors to personal computers, all of the first courses offered were beginning level. The classes were small (no more than 10 students) with lots of individual attention (an instructor and 1–3 coaches depending on the number of students) and adults teaching adults.

Aiken SeniorNet soon realized that local seniors wanted more than an introduction. They wanted to hone and grow their computer skills. In January 2008, the classroom moved from the basement of the USC Aiken Library to a separate building beside the USC Aiken tennis courts. At this point, the Aiken SeniorNet Learning Center was offering intermediate and advanced courses to 300 to 500 adults each year. A grant from the state of South Carolina, facilitated by Skipper Perry, went to upgrade the computers in the Learning Center.

In 2014, the local organization, which had grown to about 70 volunteers and assumed more of the manual writing previously provided by SeniorNet, decided that it was time to leave SeniorNet. The McGrath Computer Learning Center, Inc., a fully independent 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation, was charted August 19, 2014. The new organization offered its first classes in January 2015.

As an independent organization, McGrath could be more responsive and provide better value to the Aiken community needs. As technology grew, McGrath responded by offering courses covering phones and tablets and popular applications. In 2017, it added courses for Apple devices iPad, iPhone, and iMac.

Note: The Academy and McGrath each maintained its own website before the merger. Information from the two websites is archived here.