LYNNWOOD — Like any good student, Bill Keppler looks forward to the fall semester at Edmonds Community College.
His next term will mark the 11th consecutive year the 81-year-old has taken classes at EdCC through the Creative Retirement Institute, a nonprofit lifelong learning program celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“I take three classes every term,” said Keppler, the former dean of arts and sciences at Boise State University. “I’m one of these guys who love to try something new. If I fail, I don’t give a damn.”
When fall registration opens Aug. 9, Keppler can choose from among 29 offerings, including “How Life Began and Evolved”, “Early 1800s American History,” “Lessons From a Sea Otter,” and “Inequality in a Capitalist Society.”
That’s a bounty compared to spring 1993, when EdCC leaders John Terrey and Pam LeMay launched CRI with 14 classes and 90 enrollments. Today the program has more than 100 volunteers, a salaried coordinator, and about 900 enrollments per term.
“It really is an incredible service,” said Sandra Hayes, a member of the CRI advisory board. “It shows there is something beyond Bingo out there for senior citizens.”
After paying $20 quarterly membership dues, CRI students may register for as many classes as they like. Tuition ranges from $11 to $44 per course. Registration qualifies students for use of the library, gym and other campus resources.
Each CRI course meets weekly, during the day, and typically lasts two hours. None runs longer than four sessions. There is no homework, no grades and no exams.
“The students are happy to be there. That’s the real difference,” said ex-University of Washington professor Sean Taylor, who will teach Shakespeare’s “Richard III” in the fall.
Taylor is beginning his 13th year as a CRI instructor. He has built a following of 18 students who have become good friends.
Most CRI classes are taught by former or current college professors. They propose topics that are vetted by a curriculum committee.
“We try not to do the ‘how to’ courses,” said Carol Crawford, the committee chair. “There are other venues for that.”
As much as the classes, CRI members say it’s the relationships that keep them re-enrolling.
“It really does become family,” Crawford said. “The majority of us are like-minded. We enjoy being with others who like to learn.”
“It’s people exploring ideas,” said Jerry Hollingsworth, chairman of the CRI Board. “Sometimes they’re different than the ones you came in with.”
CRI members will celebrate the program’s 25th anniversary with a summer social July 11 at Point Edwards Park. The agenda includes an historical slide show and speech by the new EdCC president.
Classes are held at EdCC, Edmonds Senior Center, Lynnwood Senior Center, Fairwinds Brighton Court and the new Homage Senior Services location in Lynnwood.