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History of Coastal Senior College

In the mid 1990’s Rabbi Harry Sky, recently retired from Temple Beth El in Portland, approached Richard Pattenaude, then president of USM, with an idea. “How great it would be” he said, “to have a college for retirees who finally have the time to devote to subjects they’ve never before had the chance to pursue. This college would have short (six or eight week) courses with no compulsory homework or exams.”

An ad was placed in the Portland paper announcing a fish chowder lunch, to see if there was interest in such a concept. 500 seniors showed up, and the rest is history! In fact, Senior College at USM was so successful that in 1999 Rabbi Sky went to then Governor Angus King suggesting that the State of Maine help to make the movement statewide. The Governor sent Rabbi Sky and others from Senior College to the Education Committee of the Legislature which agreed to give annual support for a Maine Senior College Network and seed money for fledgling programs around the state.

There are currently 17 Senior Colleges in the network, located from Fort Kent to Wells, and Machias to Bethel, serving 6500 seniors, all loosely allied under the Network umbrella.

Coastal Senior College was organized in the summer of 2001, in response to a newspaper ad placed by the Director of University College at Thomaston . A steering committee was formed and our first eight classes were offered at Thomaston Academy to 141 members in the spring of 2002. Bylaws were drawn up, instructors were recruited, and publicity was organized.

Today, Coastal Senior College (CSC) provides intellectual stimulation and good company through classes, affinity groups and special events for seniors in the Midcoast, from Wiscasset to Camden. Now in our nineteenth year, we are a vital force in Knox and Lincoln Counties ending 2020 with 355 members and offering upwards of 15 to 20 courses each spring and fall, as well as 8 to 10 courses each winter. Our classes are offered at many different locations throughout Lincoln and Knox counties in our desire to make them more geographically accessible.

We continue to be an all-volunteer organization. Much of the work of the College is organized by committees. Its success is directly tied to seniors who are willing to help in many different ways. We are always interested in recruiting new volunteers, including instructors and committee members to ensure that our mission of providing lifelong learning to the “over-50’s” in Midcoast Maine is fulfilled.

Much of the behind the scenes work is done by volunteers serving on one of the five CSC committees: Curriculum, Activities, Marketing & Publicity, Tech and Development. Highly knowledgeable volunteer instructors lead classes that typically meet for two hours during the week, usually for full eight-week spring and fall trimesters, and for a shortened four to six week winter semester.

Special events, groups, forums, lectures, and field trips are also offered to CSC members throughout the year, often noted in our e-newsletter. Additional benefits of CSC membership include the opportunity to join the governing board, the operating committees, and volunteer opportunities such as planning special events, assisting instructors, and helping with office tasks. Some of our local libraries offer free library cards to our members. Membership also provides the opportunity to take classes at other senior colleges in the Maine Senior College Network without paying an additional membership fee.

Senior College is open to all seniors primarily 50 years of age or more, and to their spouses or partners, who value education and have inquiring minds.