What did I learn? I learned:
- That exposure to sarcasm improves creativity and analytic reasoning (Whew!)
- That I need to listen more carefully to Leonard Cohen’s lyrics
- That who the president is matters because he makes decisions that affect us all
- That I know quite a few people who attend classes at the Fromm Institute
- That as a student, I am entitled to discounts at many museums, the SF Opera and the SF Ballet!
The Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning is located and embedded at the University of San Francisco and offers full access to the facilities and services at USF. The institute offers daytime college-level classes for people 50 years old and up, and these classes are developed and taught by emeritus professors who are passionate about their subjects. There is no homework, tests or required reading and the professors are very careful about not letting the classes get hijacked by people who pretend they have questions but really want to show everyone how smart they are. Yet these same professors are personable, warm, and very accessible for questions or remarks.
The Institute was founded by Alfred and Hanna Fromm in 1976. Alfred was born in Kitzingen, Germany, in 1905, into a family of vintners. He married Hanna in 1936 and then immigrated to the United States from Nazi Germany. After a successful career in the wine business, he and Hanna became a generous and active members of the San Francisco arts community. According to Alfred’s biography, he believed in “the importance of learning, strong family bonds and charity.” (SF Gate)
After talking to friends about their retirement plans, Hanna and Alfred founded the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco. Their peers had talked about a desire to learn and continue with their education, but not at school with their children. With this in mind, Hanna began seriously exploring the idea of a college for older people, especially as she had seen the mental and physical health of many friends deteriorate after retirement. She finally approached The University of San Francisco, which agreed to provide classroom space and administrative support. Primary funding for the program came from Fromm family philanthropy.
“Expecting at best 50 students, she was astonished when 600 showed up to register on opening day. . . The institute enrolled 76 students, including a 60-year-old man who began to cry when he at first was turned away. Then he told Fromm how alone he felt: His wife still worked and his five grown children were out of the house.” “Frommies,” as the institute’s students are known on campus, now outnumber the freshmen at the University of San Francisco.” (LA Times)
I attended three classes during my first semester: The Bard and The Brain II taught by Thomas Lewis M.D., T.R. to Trump: The Changing Nature of the American Presidency taught by John Rothman, and Musical Pairings taught by Jonathan Bailey. I enjoyed every class, so much so that I am going to pay an extra $50 next semester to access the Frommcast program, which provides digital recordings of some of the classes I missed, as well as classes from previous years. Thanks to Elizabeth and Diane for advising me on what classes to take. Although I’m sure that all the classes are excellent, it helps to have friends “in the know.”
If you don’t know anyone yet, students are so friendly and warm at the Fromm that you’ll have buddies soon. However, I bet you’ll discover that you do know people there. I ran into friends in every class I took. The Fromm Institute is obviously a place that encourages connections, which are so important for all of us, but especially for older adults whose children have their own lives and who no longer have work communities. There is even a student association that plans events, such as concerts and lunch-time talks.
At a presentation with Bob Morgan, I learned how to use my student status to enroll in the rush program at the SF Opera, since I’m not quite old enough for the senior discount. I was able to use that knowledge and enroll with the SF Ballet program as well. Bob encouraged us to use our Fromm Student ID’s to get discounts. So far I saved $$ at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. I even saved $3 on a pair of jeans at the Gap just by asking if they had student discounts and showing my ID. Thanks Bob for advising us to keep our ID’s in our wallets!
If you decide to go, let me know and we can meet and have lunch together!
Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning: 660 Parker Street, San Francisco. Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. (When there are no Fromm Institute classes being held, it is closed for lunch from 1pm to 2pm.)
See you all next year! Please send ideas for restaurants you loved in 2017 or upcoming arts events we should look for.
Thanks for your encouragement and support in 2017!