Posted November 28, 2007

Temple keeps alumni connected through learning

Laura Gruen may not be a Temple alumna, but she is intent on finding out what they might like to learn.

Since her arrival at Temple this fall as the director of alumni education, Gruen has been meeting nonstop with faculty, staff, and alumni to discuss the best ways of keeping alumni connected through intellectual programs.

“Education is the reason alumni chose Temple in the first place,” said Gruen, “and the enthusiasm with which they participate in the programs the university now offers is a good sign that they are eager to go on learning from Temple faculty.”

Senior Scholars
Photos by Joseph V. Labolito/

Temple University
Deborah Glass, a 1969 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, compares notes with a fellow student about classical mythology in a course she is taking as part of the Senior Scholars program.

Temple University Alumni Association is currently offering two highly popular intellectual programs for alumni — the annual Temple on the Road series held in the nation’s 10 largest alumni communities and the Senior Scholars program that brings alumni and their spouses aged 50 and older into the classroom to audit their choice of selected courses.

During the coming months, Gruen and her colleagues plan to add further faculty-led programs in a variety of formats and venues. In the works are a series of free, early evening lectures by faculty from the School of Education, readings and book signings by Temple University Press authors, an online book discussion group and alumni study trips led by faculty experts to destinations in the United States and abroad.


In addition to new initiatives, TUAA is adding an educational dimension to traditional alumni events.

This fall’s Homecoming schedule included “Homecoming of the Mind,” a panel on the past 50 years of the space program that featured astronaut Scott Carpenter, and a lecture and tour at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Together, the two programs drew more than 200 people. The spring Founder’s Celebration will expand to include two afternoons of “classes without quizzes.”

TU Homecoming 2007
This fall’s Homecoming schedule included “Homecoming of the Mind,” which included a lecture and tour at Eastern State Penitentiary.

An innovative new tool to keep alumni plugged in even if they’re far from campus was launched this fall, Gruen said. The networking community is designed to enhance career advancement and social opportunities for Temple students and alumni. The service, which is a joint venture of the Office of Institutional Advancement and Temple University Alumni Association, is free of charge.

“In years to come, we hope to post a variety of interesting lectures and interactive discussions on the web site, so that wherever in the world our alumni may be they can access Temple’s riches in research and teaching,” Gruen said.

The perennially popular Senior Scholars program requires that alumni return to campus, but it serves as a blueprint for engaging Temple alumni with the institution and its students. Alumni choose from a diverse assortment of disciplines, from economics to geography to contemporary poetry and a little bit of everything else.

More than 50 different courses are offered to senior scholars during the fall and spring semesters, and the program draws close to 200 alumni participants each year.

Those who have taken advantage of the program see it as an opportunity to interact with a new generation of Temple students while prolonging their own educational experience.

Phil Sandler, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from the College of Recreation Therapy in 1969, returned to campus two years ago and has been using the Senior Scholars program to reconnect with the university.

“[Senior Scholars] allows me the opportunity to get a whole new experience of Temple as an insider again,” he said. “I love to see how the campus has changed over the decades and to be a part of it feels really good.”

The biggest shock for Sandler between life as a student now and being a student in the 1960s has been the physical developments. He remembers when there was only one cafeteria on campus and when students had to hike up staircases — a stark contrast to the vendor-filled streets and long lines waiting for elevator doors to open.

One thing that hasn’t changed is who he found standing at the front front of his class. Almost 40 years after taking a course on religion and society, Sandler was surprised to look up and see the same man teaching him again: Religion Professor John Raines.

“[Raines] is just as marvelous as he was all those years ago,” the Philadelphia native said. “I had actually kept a term paper that I had written in his class in 1969 and brought it in to show him how much of an impact he had on me.”

Sandler’s renewed interest in education has encouraged him to start a new career in real estate.

“I began to look into the courses Temple offers that may not be part of the Senior Scholars program and was really interested in seeing what their real estate institution in Center City was all about,” Sandler explained. “I took one course and have been toying with the idea of completing the program. You never know, I may have found another career late in life.”

Hazel Pelletreau has discovered she’s been able delve more deeply into her courses during her second go around on campus.

“I remember being an undergraduate, doing the reading and completing the homework was so rushed because there is little time to get everything done,” the 1965 graduate said. “So, the idea of taking courses and not having to worry about taking tests and writing term papers gives me the opportunity to truly understand the material.”

When Jonathan de Jonge came to the university as a senior scholar it was his first Temple experience. Unlike Sandler and Pelletreau, de Jonge isn’t a Temple graduate – his wife Carolyn is. His choice to participate in the program came from his belief that people should never stop learning.

“The old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is very true,” he said. “There is so much to learn, I don’t understand the concept of being bored at any age.”

De Jonge has used his retirement as an opportunity to get involved in his community as a member of the township planning commission in Upper Moreland. He’s taken advantage of his time at Temple to better educate himself on planning issues, by enrolling in a community and regional planning course last year.

One of de Jonge’s professors, Kevin Arceneaux, said that the addition of senior scholars has been a benefit to his class.

“I definitely enjoy having Senior Scholars in my class,” the political science assistant professor said. “They add a valuable and insightful perspective to class discussion, and demonstrate to all of us that learning is a lifelong pursuit.”