Campus & Community

HILR students honored for ‘dedication’

6 min read
Bernice Rosenbaum poses with a photo taken 25 years ago, when she first joined the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. (Photo by Jeffry Pike)

Seven members of the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement (HILR), all recent nonagenarians, were honored by University Marshal Jackie O’Neill for their dedication to lifelong learning. The April 29 ceremony at the Harvard Faculty Club was attended by friends and family of the honorees, and by Dean Michael Shinagel of the Division of Continuing Education, HILR president Ellie Porter, and HILR director Leonie Gordon. The honorees were Virginia Chapin, Abe Hoffman, Betty Lind, Milton Paisner, Alice Plume, Bernice Rosenbaum, and Jeanne Wasserman. In listing their achievements and contributions to the HILR, O’Neill offered praise to the seven members, citing them as models for continuing education in the Harvard community. She presented them with certificates and read citations of appreciation, excerpts from which follow: Virginia ChapinSince graduating from Vassar College almost seven decades ago, you have led a life rich and various in achievement. You have worked with distinguished delegates at the United Nations, and again with foreign visitors at the Institute for International Education; you have counseled prison inmates, managed a bookstore, and you have raised two accomplished offspring, both graduates of Harvard College. …At the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement you have flourished these past 14 years. … You have provided yeoman service in the Dunlop Library and delighted fellow class members with your thoughts on music, history, literature, French, and your eternal subject of study, C.G. Jung. The University applauds the joie de vivre that you bring to the experience of learning.Abraham HoffmanYou joined the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement 11 years ago in 1994 with a youthful curiosity that belied your 78 years. In one brief decade you have … studied history, current events, international relations, art, psychology, religion, and creative writing, and in each of these subjects you have engaged spiritedly and knowledgeably, approaching your reading assignments with seriousness and joy. … Your greatest lessons were learned from life: from your experience of the Great Depression and the War, from the meaning of family and community, and later from your work in protest of the Vietnam War. You have brought this collective wisdom to the learning experience at HILR and your classes and classmates have been the richer for your insights. …Betty Lind Since joining the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement in 1987, you have been a model of intellectual curiosity and of triumph over adversity. After your plans to study law in your native Germany were shattered by the rise of Hitler, you and your family ultimately found passage to the United States. … During the difficult wartime years, you acquired skills as a bookkeeper, bilingual secretary and translator, legal assistant and researcher, optimistically building a life in your new country, despite learning in 1945 that many family members and friends had been victims of the Nazi Holocaust. History – especially European – foreign affairs, current events, and art have been at the heart of your self-education. … Six years ago you volunteered to lead the first of two courses in the history of the Weimar Republic, an experience that the members of your class will remember for the powerful retelling of your teenage memories. …Milton Paisner ’36You are a quintessential member of the Harvard family, having attended the College, married a Radcliffe girl, Martha, and seen one of your children graduate from Harvard in 1964. You have brought honor to your alma mater through your work, your scholarship and your devotion to learning. In the 22 years since … [y]our interests have ranged from the “Joy of English” to classic novelists such as Hawthorne, Twain, and Conrad, and to the great dramatists – Ibsen, Shaw, and O’Neill – amidst numerous forays into mythology and fairy tales. You have been heard to say that the last two decades of your life have been the most intellectually pleasing. … Alice PlumeA dark cloud passed over your happy life in Latvia when the Soviet Union took over your country in 1940. You and your family fled to Germany, there to be exposed five years later to one of the greatest horrors of the Second World War, the fire-bombing of Dresden on February 13, 1945. You emerged from your basement shelter to find one of the most beautiful cities of Europe obliterated and thousands of its citizens killed. It took supreme courage on your part to carry on with your medical studies in light of such catastrophe, but you did so, graduating from the University of Hamburg with your M.D. in 1950. …The Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement appeared like a beacon of fulfillment when you discovered its learning community in 1982. For the past 23 years you have been a faithful member, regularly enrolling in three HILR classes each semester for a total accumulation of more than 120 courses. …Bernice RosenbaumYour 25 years at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement have, by your own assertion, changed your life and made you into a new and different person. You grew up, were educated, and worked in Boston, witnessing the history of 20th century America through the growth and changes of this great city. … Following graduation from the Boston University School of Social Work, your career as a psychiatric social worker led you down complex and demanding paths, culminating in a position as a director of community services for the state welfare department. For your services you were recognized and honored. Upon retirement, you found the HILR and you might well have said, “the rest is history.” Instead, as you discovered its possibilities for learning in new realms, you chose to live by the quote from an early HILR study group leader: “Education is what you have left after you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned.” At HILR you have studied literature, the classics, music, history, and humor. And you have studied the art of writing, both poetry and memoir. You live by the maxim, “If you live long enough, anything can happen!” …Jeanne WassermanThroughout your … life you have been a curator in all its facets, allowing your love of art, beauty, and aesthetics to lead you in rich and rewarding directions. After graduation from Radcliffe in 1936, you devoted your energies to raising three children with an appreciation for both the natural and the constructed environment around them. The depth of the personal collection of drawings, painting, and sculpture you assembled attests not only to your knowledge of art history but also to your belief in the power of art to transform the human spirit. You served Harvard University with distinction as the Fogg Art Museum’s curator of 19th and 20th century sculpture for two decades, and the research you conducted there on the work of Honoré Daumier is regarded as authoritative…. In 1986, you joined the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, and your contributions over these 19 years have been legion. You have led 13 courses in art history, to the universal acclaim of your fellow members. You have served on the Admissions Committee and been elected to the HILR Council. In May 2000 the Institute honored you for your accomplishments and your consummate citizenship as a member. …