Class is back in session for hundreds of Asbury residents enjoying one of the region’s most extensive (and least expensive) on-campus, continuing education programs – the Keese School. Headed by a resident who serves a three-year term as dean, the school offers classes, lectures and educational tours on topics that run from serious to silly to sublime.
Taught by professors from area universities, industry professionals, scholars, scientists and artists, as well as Asbury residents, the Spring semester offerings include “An Illustrated Guide Through The Divine Comedy,” “The Healing Power of Laughter,” and “Riding the Freedom Train: The Underground Railroad.” The catalogue features 20 pages of such classes, lectures and tours that residents can attend for the bargain price of $1 in advance or $2 at the door.
Each year the dean of the William A. Keese School of Continuing Education works with a committee of residents to help select topics for each semester, and then begins reaching out to educators and professionals willing to speak. Some 200 residents take advantage of the program each semester, with evening lectures being the most popular. In 2012, a group of residents from Royal Oaks in Sun City, Ariz., traveled to Asbury to see the school in action. Their goal: to see about re-creating a similar program at their community.
Founded 34 years ago by William Keese, a retired minister, his wife, and another couple at Asbury Methodist Village, the school is impressive in its breadth and lecturers.
“The D.C. area has enormous resources,” says current dean Don Woodward. “Where else can you have a physician from NIH come to talk about a disease or new treatment, or travel to the heart of our nation to learn about the history of the national monuments? With our location just outside Washington, we sit in the center of colleges and universities, government agencies, technology, museums and culture, and we have leveraged that.”
Not all courses are on such lofty issues, though. One ongoing class is run by former dean Murray Schulman and has a very personal slant. Called “Writing Our Memoirs," it grew out of a class offered two years ago by memoirist Armiger "Jay"Jagoe. “We get together and read our essays in a very encouraging, non-critical way, and then we choose a new topic to focus on for the next monthly meeting,” says Schulman, who now leads the class. “None of us are technically writers, but the essays people have written are very good. They are all intelligent people who work very hard at describing their life's journey as a legacy for their family and love it.”
Resident Bob Hartman, a retired physician, is a faithful attendee of the Keese School. He says this kind of programming is partly what drew him to Asbury Methodist Village after visiting a lot of other retirement communities. “I’m a doctor; I know how important it is to stay active both physically and mentally as we age,” Hartman says. “My parents moved to a retirement community when they were too old to enjoy the activities offered. I made sure that I didn’t make that mistake. I have a natural thirst for knowledge and this kind of programming keeps me satisfied, and there are plenty of people like me to discuss these topics with. It’s important to continue to learn.”