The All Volunteer Alma Mater
In addition to thanking our sponsors and instructors, it is important to acknowledge the volunteers who banded together to keep Senior college functioning as the pandemic began and grew.
The Spring 2020 Semester was canceled just as the catalogs arrived at the Senior College office from the printer. Refunds were issued by some of those who had volunteered to help with registration. Soon after, the office was locked and the campus was closed.
The group, including Pam St. Peter, the administrative assistant from the university, were all relatively new to the job. Most did not know each other well. Now they could not meet in person. They were all seniors social distancing. The word was that Senior College would be suspended indefinitely. There were no vaccines. They had responded to a call to help with registration for just one week. So none of the individual volunteers knew if any of the others felt an obligation to try to continue facilitating Senior College activities into the future.
They held an initial meeting on Zoom, a new experience for them, where they discovered that they were all willing to commit, agreeing that Senior College would be even more important during the national shut-in period. From that virtual group handshake, many hundreds of volunteer hours ensued.
The group became expert in Zoom so they could assist instructors with their presentations, sitting in classes where needed to handle the issues students encountered so the class would not be interrupted. The members scheduled duty days for themselves, so anyone who called to request help with Zoom or computer use would receive it. Usually, a special private Zoom session was set up for the caller to learn to log in and use the software. This made it possible for board and committee members to meet and for students to attend classes.
To begin, Mike Bell agreed to present his canceled Roosevelt class on Zoom as a test case and learning experience. Next came summer lectures and then full Fall and Spring semesters. In short, the heavens opened up, a light shone through, and Senior College did not suspend it’s classes.
What qualified these people to succeed? Among them they had life experience being at various times unemployed and/or on public assistance, the director of admissions for a Maine college, the art director for a regional magazine, a public school teacher, a manager for a small private company with 20 employees, an environmental specialist for a state Department of Environmental Protection, a self-employed IT consultant, and an electrical engineer for a large international corporation.
The group, however, did not succeed because they had or had not held positions of authority, or because of particular training, or because of or in spite of their age. They were up to the task mostly because of a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to each other to share the burden.
The Office Committee:
Kay Fiedler, Louis Fontaine, Shelly Gerstein, Gale Mettey, Robert O’Halloran, Elizabeth Reinsborough, Pam St. Peter, and Ann Sullivan