Aiken Academy offers new courses for seniors

Aiken Standard File Photo In this file photo, teacher Linda Soyars, far right, attends a conference with teachers, from left, Shannon Edwards, alternative school teacher; Logan Herring, Redcliffe Elementary School; and Shay Thatcher, Warrenville Elementary School. After retiring three years ago, Soyars began participating in the Academy for Lifelong Learning and has enjoyed the wide range of short courses for seniors at USC Aiken.

Linda Soyars taught most recently at Midland Valley High School for 20 years and earlier in her career in Florida and Greenville County.

When she retired three years ago, “I wanted to get on the other side of the desk,” Soyars said. “I love learning.”

She began taking classes with the Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learning – an organization that gives seniors a chance to take short courses in a variety of subjects.

The program partners with USC Aiken’s continuing education program and its director, Mary Anne Cavanaugh, who provides some of the professors along with other residents for the courses. They usually consist of four one-hour sessions. Soyars cited one class she especially enjoyed from English professor Dr. Andrew Geyer. He discussed American authors such Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, both living in Paris in the 1930s.

Gerald McDonald got involved with the academy after moving to Aiken five years ago and is now the president.

“It’s been very rewarding,” he said. “It’s one thing to stay healthy by exercising, but you have to exercise your mind, too.”

A total of 21 short classes will be offered in the fall semester at USCA – focusing in part on history, the sciences, art and religion.

Membership is $70 per semester, giving participants the opportunity to take as many classes as they want. They also get parking, use of the campus’ Gregg-Graniteville library and discounts to university programs.

Interested people can enroll through the website www.aikenlearning.org.

The catalog of new classes, published with this article, will appear on the website August 5. People can print out the enrollment form and submit it with their payment to the address on the form.

The academy has gotten much support from USCA, McDonald said.

“A lot of times, they get overlooked,” he said, “but the university is one of the major economic drivers in this area.”

The organization is entirely volunteer, and Soyars has taken the role of publicity chairman.

“I’ve been a sponge for three years, just paying my fee,” she said with laugh. “I decided this was something I could do and get more people involved.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.