All Are Welcome, But You Gotta Be at least 50 To Vote!

Not every (almost-soon-not-to-be-any-longer-middle-aged – I can’t believe it!) person is particularly interested in any sort of classes. In fact, many resist the idea of associating with people of their own age. But some are interested (the numbers around 3%, so you’re definitely unique!), and at the University of Maine Senior College, our mission is to make sure the opportunity is there for those who want it. We’re grown up and generally competent. As we say to entice prospective instructors, “We already know how to learn and have well developed, easy going, social skills. You’ll like teaching here.”

Augusta Senior College provides many activities and academic classes in language, history, current affairs, and other subjects. These classes are usually taught by professors or professionals, sometimes, retired. We also offer a variety of personal enrichment opportunities in art, crafts, music, and theater, along with concerts, forums, and book clubs. Our Winter 2020 Lecture Series registered 187 students, though one of our most popular classes, Pétanque (a French style bowling game, taught by Raymond Fecteau) is limited to 8 at a time. A typical semester has 25 or 30 classes. See what’s going on now.

What don’t we have? We don’t have classes that are primarily intended as job training or career advancement. That’s “adult education,” and for a brief explanation and history of the difference between Senior College and adult education, though the age brackets overlap, see below, The World of Lifelong Learning.  Suffice it to note that the UMA campus that is famous for it’s productive and convenient distance learning programs which support many of those who are advancing their education while working or taking care of kids, is also the campus which sponsors one of the most successful Lifelong Learning programs in the state of Maine. So if you did stumble here looking for a degree program or classes to improve your career, goto  UMA’s website or read a great US News review. To learn more about the pleasure of learning without grades go to more news or just register for a class.

The World of Lifelong Learning

The Osher Foundation, sponsor of the Maine Senior College Network where UMASC is one of 17 participating colleges, says about the need for Life Long Learning:

“In the fall of 2000, the Foundation began to consider programs targeted toward more mature students not necessarily well served by standard continuing education curricula. [These] Courses often attract students of all ages eager to accumulate units to complete degrees or to acquire specific job skills. By contrast, the interest of many older adults, especially those who have retired, is in learning for the joy of learning – without examinations or grades – and keeping in touch with a larger world.”

This is not only an American phenomenon. It began in France in 1973 and spread throughout Europe where it is commonly referred to as U3A (university for the third ‘age’ of life). China began building schools in 1983 and now has more than 70,000 serving about 8 million students, about 3% of the people over 60.

If you’d like to be part of this world wide movement, sign up for a class. After a few sessions, you might be walking back to your car, notice some classmates and join them for a cup of coffee. There are studies that show we make our lifelong friends in college.



For the first time in a long time Augusta Senior College book clubs have openings! 


     To inaugurate our new commentary section, both Cheryl Fontaine and Peter Whitkop in separate articles share the challenge and satisfaction they experienced as they prepared to teach their first Senior College Class. Ann Sullivan talks with Chuck Acker, the real “not-founder” of UMASC as the organization traveled a winding road to its first semester in 2002. And Kay Fiedler zooms in to personalize the décor choices and quality time many of us spent with our four legged friends during the shut-in.  


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Augusta Senior College is sponsored by the University of Maine at Augusta, and is a member of the Maine Senior College Network


General Information for Potential Students and Instructors

  • UMA Senior College activities are focused on people 50 years old and up.

  • There are two semesters – Spring (begins mid-March) and Fall (begins mid-September) – about 25 to 30 classes per semester.

  • Classes are typically 1.5 – 2 hours long and run 8 weeks.

  • Not including our Concert series, we produce about 25 lecture and forum events per year, in addition to classes. Lectures are one or two-part presentations on a wide variety of subjects  This is often how volunteer instructors get started.

  • Our long-running Concerts at Jewett series, sponsored by local businesses and private contributions, featured talented Maine performers representing a variety of musical forms. The concert series has been temporarily suspended.

  • During the winter months of January and February, Brown Bag lectures are held Tuesdays at noon. The topics and lecturers vary. (Suspended and replaced with Zoom Winter Lecture Series due to Covid restrictions.)

  • The Granite Hill Lecture Series is a regular course lasting for 8 weeks that is taught each semester by 8 different instructors. (Suspended and replaced with Zoom lectures due to Covid precautions at the Granite Hill Estates facility.)

  • Classroom facilities include white boards, overhead projectors, computers, etc. You can usually set up a video or PowerPoint presentation on your laptop or thumbdrive, and project it. Some classrooms are Zoom friendly.



The information above describes what have been our historical norms. Don’t hesitate to ask about something different.  In particular, although we serve retired seniors well, we believe our classes are not easily available to those still working.  We are looking to inaugurate Saturday classes and evening classes. It would help to know if you are interested or have other suggestions.

“One kind word can warm
three winter months.”

Japanese Proverb


Classes start Monday, March 21
Registration begins March 1

UMASC Winter Lecture Series & French Films Class

The holidays are upon us and UMASC is wishing everyone a wonderful, safe, and happy season!

Even in the midst of shopping, wrapping, decorating, and enjoying get-togethers with family and friends; we can look forward to the new year and the exciting programs UMA Senior College will be offering in 2022! Starting on January 11 with the Winter Lecture Series held every Tuesday and the French Films class held every Saturday from January 22 through March 5. Both the lectures and the films will be held at 1pm via Zoom.

Registration begins December 28, 2021
Winter Lectures start January 11  • French Films start January 22

The New UMASC Commentary Section

The articles below inaugurate our new commentary section. 
If you would like to participate, use this entry form.


There is a team working at Senior College now that did not exist before Covid.

In the Spring of 2020, shortly after registration for classes was complete, the UMA campus was closed. Some of the temporary volunteers who had signed up to help during the days of registration at the office, took on the task of unraveling the payments and authorizing refunds.  As they were finishing, the office building was locked.

This group, including Pam St. Peter, the administrative specialist from the University, were all relatively new to each other. And now they could not even 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 a 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 familiar with Zoom so they could train and assist instructors with their Zoom presentations, even sitting in classes when needed to handle the issues students encountered so the class and instructor would not be interrupted.

The team 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.

In the beginning, to get things started, Mike Bell agreed to present his canceled Roosevelt class on Zoom as a test case and learning experience for everyone. The process went well, and 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,  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 Volunteer Committee:
Kay Fiedler, Louis Fontaine, Shelly Gerstein, Gale Mettey, Robert O’Halloran, Elizabeth Reinsborough, Pam St. Peter, and Ann Sullivan

The Klahr Center - What Goes Around

Tech support at Senior College is grateful for the help provided by Bill Starrett of UMA Media Support Services. On two occasions Bill set up various audio visual equipment  to demonstrate and explain the choices for teaching in classrooms and on zoom synchronously. At the time we thought we were preparing to purchase equipment. In reality, the time we spent with him prepared us to recognize how perfectly the recently renovated classroom at the Klahr Center was for teaching hybrid (synchronous) classes.

The Klahr Center has a long history of assisting Senior College with lecture and classroom space, but their current support providing synchronous classroom space for 7 classes in the fall semester is unprecedented! The Klahr Center’s Holocaust and Human Rights Center (HHRC) provides educational services throughout the state, including 3 recent classes at UMASC,  and you can find the services they might provide for you or your organization under Education at the new HHRC website. 

BTW, the audio visual equipment in the Klahr center classroom was designed and installed by UMA Media Support Services.

Free classes – Where do they come from?

UMASC has a problem that most organizations would envy. Our coffers are overflowing. Our members support the organization with generous contributions, we’re frugal, and our compliance with the tenants of the Osher Foundation regarding (1) classroom space from a supporting educational institution (UMA) and (2) a commitment to a totally volunteer workforce (instructors and support staff) means that we have almost no costs for labor or rent.

The board began to tackle the situation after a $75,000 donation in 2019 pushed our total assets above $190,000. The board was comfortable with the cushion, but concerned that continued growth for its own sake was not in keeping with fulfilling the mission of Senior College. And then when Covid forced the college to virtual classes, the answer appeared.

Because the technology was new and problematic, we wanted the classes to be free as we prepared and learned to do reasonably glitch-free on-line events. Participation, however, in Zoom classes was immediately high. People were taking more classes than they had been. And, after polling, we saw that one of the many reasons was that Zoom classes were free, which made a second or third class possible for many who would not previously have thought it affordable. So, to serve as many people with as many classes as possible without regard to economic status, the $30 fee for classes was waived by the board for campus classes also.

One counter argument to free classes has been that commitment to the class would wane if it were free. Consistent attendance and participation at classes for the last 2 semesters, where classes have been free, does not support this conclusion so far.

For now:

  1. There’s a new word for savings at UMASC – endowment! As of now, the income from our endowment, our membership fees, and contributions are sufficient to support us. If our net worth starts to dwindle, we will adjust. We believe we need to continue to have a “cushion” as the full effect of the boomer generation may not yet have placed a full demand on our services.
  2. Based on committee recommendations, the Board of Directors approved the proposal to continue to offer free classes for the 2021-22 year with the following conditions:

    • No books or supplies will be furnished through the Operating Account, they will be purchased by the students.
    • If other materials are needed (art supplies, etc.), the instructors may provide them at the students’ expense.
    • Any expenses that may arise relating to field trips will be the students’ responsibility.

  3. To further ensure that cost does not prevent anyone from participating, we have established a self-administered scholarship level membership for $10. The traditional membership $25, and higher increments up to $100 have been added. So far, there is no evidence that significant numbers of people have shifted from $25 down to $10. Our average income is higher than $25 per membership.
  4. The Winter Lecture Series in February (formerly Brown Bag) and the new Summer Lecture series in August are free and open to the public.

Augusta Senior College is sponsored by the University of Maine at Augusta, and is a member of the Maine Senior College Network.



INTOUCHABLES (The Intouchables)

2012, Comedy, Drama

Philippe is a wealthy quadriplegic who lives in a luxurious townhouse in Paris. Driss is an unemployed ex-con from the poorer side of the city. Driss applies for a job as Philippe’s live-in caregiver but only to meet a requirement to receive unemployment benefits. He has no real interest or experience in the job. Philippe challenges Driss to take the position which he does reluctantly. After a rough start, the pair begins to absorb life’s lessons from each other. Phillippe introduces Driss to the finer things of life and Driss brings life to the townhouse. But troubles in Driss family call him back to the neighborhood. Philippe becomes depressed and withdrawn with the new caregivers. Eventually, Driss returns and lifts Philippe’s spirits with a surprise rendezvous.

Intouchables was one of the largest box office hits of all times in France. This is one of a number of French films produced this century which demonstrates some of the cultural diversity of modern France. Omas Sy, who stars as BakaryDrissBassari, is first generation French, born of West African parents.

Directors: Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
Starring: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny

1 hour 52 minutes

MON ONCLE (My Uncle)

1958, Comedy

The director and star of this film is one of the best known comedy directors and film actors of mid-century France. His character, Mr. Hulot, appears in 4 of his films. The themes of his films include western society’s obsession with material goods, American-style consumerism and the cold and often impractical nature of space-age technology and design. In Mon Oncle, Mr. Hulot visits the technology-driven world of his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, but he can’t quite fit into the surroundings. Mon Oncle won the 1959 award for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

Director: Jacques Tati
Stars: Jacques Tati (uncredited), Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie

1 hour 56 minutes


1955 Crime, Drama, Horror

Michel is a tyrannical headmaster of a boarding school. He mistreats his wife, Christina, and his mistress, Nicole. Unable to withstand the mistreatment any longer, Nicole and Christina develop a plan with a perfect alibi to murder Michel. After the murder, the body disappears but traces of Michel keep reappearing mysteriously. Christina is overcome with fear and confesses the crime to the police. The police eventually solve the mysterious reappearances but only after Christina has a heart attack.

The film has been called the best psychological thriller that Hitchcock never made. The twist at the end of the movie makes you rethink everything that you saw before.

Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse

1 hour 57 minutes

LA VACHE (One Man and his Cow)

2016, Adventure, Comedy

Fatah, an Algerian farmer, loves his cow, Jacqueline, and dreams of entering her in the annual competition, the Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris. When he gets a surprise invitation to the prestigious fair, he begins an adventure from his Algerian village, across the Mediterranean Sea to Paris. Crossing on the ferry to Marseille takes all of Fatah’s money and he begins the long walk to Paris. Along the route, he gets delayed by a village celebration, hosted by a bankrupt count, mixed-up in a demonstration, separated from Jacquelin, and is arrested. With the help from the press and the friends that they made, Fatah and Jacquelin arrive at the fair in the nick of time.

This film won the Grand Prize at the 2016 International Comedy Festival in l’Alpe d’Huez, France.

Director: Mohamed Hamidi
Stars: Fatsah Bouyahmed, Lambert Wilson , Jamel Debbouze

1 hour 31 minutes


1959 Drama, Crime

In Les quatre cents coups, Antoine, a teenager with an unhappy home life falls into a life of lies and theft. Each day after school he returns to a dreary apartment where his parents bicker. He begins a life of truancy and small thefts. After he is caught by the police, his parents decide to let him face the consequence of the justice system. The film is an exposé of the injustices of the treatment of juvenile offenders in France at the time.

The director, Francois Truffaut, is considered the founder of the French New Wave film movement. The movement rejected traditional film making and explored new approaches to editing and visual styles and engagement with the social and political upheavals of the era. The film was Truffaut’s directorial debut. The English title The 400 Blows” is a poor translation of the French. Les quatre cents coups which is a French idiom for “living a wild life”. The film won 2 awards at the 1959 Cannes Film.

François Truffaut
Stars: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier

1 hour 39 minutes

CE QU’IL FAUT POUR VIVRE (The Necessities of Life)

2008, Drama

In 1952, a tuberculosis epidemic is sweeping Northern Canada. Tiivii, an Inuit, is brought to Quebec for treatment. Tiivii is unable to speak French and struggles understanding the staff in the sanitarium and is baffled by the different culture. A nurse introduces Tiivii to Kaki, an orphaned Inuit boy, who can speak both languages. With the orphan’s help, Tiivii opens up his culture to others and develops a plan to adopt Kaki.

The film is in Canadian French and Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit of Northern Canada. The film was called one of the best Quebecois films of 2008, intelligent and beautiful. It won 4 categories in the 2009 Genie Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Academy Awards.

1 hour 42 minutes

(The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)

1964 Drama, Musical, Romance

Young lovers, Geneviève and Guy, are separated when Guy is drafted for the French war in Algeria in 1957.  Before Guy leaves, the two spend the night together and pledge their undying love.  But Guy does not answer letters and Geneviève is pregnant.  At her mother’s urging, Geneviève accepts the marriage proposal of a rich suiter.  Guy returns from the war to find that Geneviève has forsaken him and begins a life without her.  He opens a gas station and marries Madeleine, his aunt’s caretaker.  Together they live a modest but happy life and have a son that they name Francois.  Four years later, Geneviève, pulls into Guy’s gas station on her way to take her daughter to see Santa. When Guy asks her daughter’s name Geneviève replies, “Françoise. She’s a lot like you.”  As Geneviève drives off Madeleine and Francois return and Guy plays in the snow with his son before going inside.

This is a musical where both songs and dialogue are sung, a performance art called “sung-through”.  The film is known for its theme song “Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi”, and its English version “I Will Wait for You”.  The film won the Palm d’Or Award at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.

Director: Jaques Deny
Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castlenuovo, Anne Vernon

1 hour 31 minutes

March 12 is reserved for a film
that was missed due to weather.