Center for Learning in Retirement

Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Kenton

people standing at a table talking
Steve Kenton, center, in the blue jacket, discusses CLIR at a UConn event in 2015.

UConn Extension’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Volunteers work to put together interesting speakers for various sessions through the year. One of these volunteers is CLIR President, Dr. Steve Kenton. With the help of the CLIR Council, a volunteer board, Dr. Kenton directs and oversees the CLIR program.

Dr. Kenton is a 1964 UConn alumnus in the Department of Mathematics and has led a busy life. He went on to graduate school and then became a Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Eastern Connecticut State University where he also served as the Head of the Mathematics Department until he retired in 2008. He spent two years as a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and had various sabbaticals in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Thailand. Dr. Kenton enjoys learning new things throughout his life. He always stayed connected with UConn, serving as a self-defense instructor for the Women’s Center, becoming involved in the CLIR program, and most recently, working with the Alumni Center arranging a 50th reunion for the Allen House Alumni. 

Steve first learned about CLIR through colleagues who were members of this Extension program. He started participating in CLIR workshops right after he retired in 2008.  He has now served as the President of the program for the past eight years! Some of his duties include recruiting speakers for the workshops. This might sound like a daunting task but Steve has great volunteers on the CLIR Council who help him with most of the work. Every season there is an impressive line-up of highly educated speakers who cover a wide variety of interesting topics. Each year CLIR offers 3 sessions (Winter, Spring, and Fall) that consist of around 25 single and a few multi-week classes. He can also always rely on the UConn Extension staff to help make a successful program. The most popular classes of CLIR participants are topics on history and political science. Steve volunteers his time because he likes supporting  a community of like minded lifelong learners like himself. He remarks, “As one ages, it is increasingly important to interact socially, and to be of service.”

Steve is making an impact by ensuring the CLIR Council runs smoothly and positions themselves within the overall mission of UConn Extension. With his help CLIR is financially stable. His favorite impression is when the speakers happily realize the CLIR audience are not just passive listeners–rather, they eagerly interact with the presenter.  Steve can’t pinpoint a favorite speaker he has listened to through CLIR since they are all excellent but one of his most memorable classes was when Rebecca Lobo, a beloved UConn Basketball alumna, spoke to the largest audience in attendance of over 75 people (pre-pandemic). When asked if he has any advice for Extension volunteers, Steve said “Take pride in being of service to your community of interest.” It’s important to go into volunteering having a goal so you can enhance your group’s role. He also mentions that, “With the critical continuing support of the UConn Extension staff and volunteers from among our membership, CLIR has a bright future as part of the Extension family.”

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at

Article by Emily Syme

Lifelong Learning with CLIR Begins Again in January

CLIR speakerThe Center for Learning in Retirement, otherwise known as CLIR, is one of the many programs offered through the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension, part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. CLIR is a lifelong learning program that provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for adults of retirement age. Individuals from all walks of life are welcome and there is no educational requirement, just a desire for learning.

Each CLIR class is approximately 1.5 hours long and held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus. CLIR covers a wide range of topics including agriculture, technology, psychology, culture, and so much more. It is not too late to register for one of the many classes available during the spring semester that starts in January. The fee for each semester is $20 and there is no limit on the number of classes you can attend. Interested participants are also welcome to attend two free classes before deciding to join CLIR.

Michael Adams, a professor from Eastern Connecticut State University, will be teaching a course January 3rd on close up and macrophotography. On January 15th the President and Secretary of Windham County National Alliance of Mental Illness will be teaching a class on Mental Health Awareness. Cameron Faustman, the Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, will be teaching a class on Food Insecurity on March 13th.

Interested in learning more and seeing what other classes CLIR has to offer? Visit, email to get on our email list, or call us at (860)570-9012. We look forward to seeing you soon!


Lifelong Learning Classes Offered in April

CLIR speaker

CLIR, a lifelong learning program offered in collaboration with UConn Extension, will hold the following classes in April, all in Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus, from 1:15 to 2:45 except for the Memoir Club.

Memoir Club                 Thursdays, April 5 – 26     10:15 – 11:45

Great Decisions             Mondays, April 9 – 30

Apr 3 Slavery in Film
Apr 11 Biking for Veterans: a cross-country trip  
Apr 18 Mind Over Matter: imagination, male and female brains, and meditation  
Apr 19 Reflections on a Life of Crime, with Attorney Mark Hauslaib
Apr 24 Climate Change, Flooding and Mitigation in the Northeast  
Apr 25 The Conflict Between Nationalism and the Interconnected Global Community

Confronting Tough Issues

CLIR groupThree times each academic year the Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) volunteers develop a course schedule that often includes classes on tough issues facing our society, providing members with expertise from knowledgeable presenters, as well as a forum to ask questions.

One such topic is the huge problem of crumbling home foundations, currently being discussed by the state legislature. In February 2017, CLIR members heard contractor Salvatore De Sciscio identify the source of the problem, a mineral called pyrrhotite that was unknowingly mixed in with concrete used to build hundreds of homes. He also discussed possible solutions. In a second class Attorney Brenda A. Draghi related her experiences with several affected families, recounting what can and is being done to help, and noting the financial impact on towns and cities for many years to come, as the greatly reduced value of the homes shrinks the property tax base. Both classes were well attended, and led to thoughtful discussions among participants and speakers.

25 Years of Lifelong Learning

Article by Kim Colavito Markesich

Orginally published by

CLIR groupThis fall, the UConn Extension Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary of providing interesting and engaging lifelong learning activities for retirees and other adults. The milestone was celebrated October 19 with a luncheon at the Deanston House in Storrs.

The UConn Board of Trustees first chartered CLIR in September 1991, under the Division of Continuing and Extended Education. Four years ago, the program was transitioned to UConn Extension.

“The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources has been very supportive,” says Stephen Kenton, CLIR president and professor emeritus at Eastern Connecticut State University. “We have a lot of people we depend on from Extension. They not only help us, they are so positive. They’ve just been wonderful.”

The center provides educational classes and courses in a variety of subjects, from history and politics to health and the arts. Membership fees are $20 per term (three terms per year) and members may attend as many classes as they wish. The lectures include single talks and short courses, all offered at the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Mansfield Depot Campus.

“When I retired, I knew I had a clear choice to either spend my time watching television until my mind turned to oatmeal, or I could find things to do that would challenge me physically and mentally to retain my faculties for as long as possible,” says Howard Raphaelson, CLIR member. “CLIR has helped me maintain my mental capabilities by exposing me to a variety of experts in many fields.” Before retirement, Raphaelson worked in the financial department of an international marketing company.

“Lifelong learners have an eclectic interest in lots of things,” says Kenton. “Most of our speakers find themselves ten minutes into a talk before people pepper them with questions. People are very engaged. There is a lot of give and take during the sessions.”

“The audiences are interested in what the speakers have to say,” says Cathleen Love, professor in the Department of Extension and CLIR administrative liaison. “They show up and are very grateful for the program. People at this age often find themselves isolated. This is a way to keep their brains active and maintain a social connection.”

“I visited similar programs across the country,” Love says. “This is by far the least expensive, and it’s run by a phenomenal group of retired people who have devoted an enormous amount of their time to make this program work. It’s the hardest working group of volunteers I know.”

On average, the Center maintains approximately 250 members, with twenty to sixty people attending each class. The College provides extension staff assistance, as well as a location with parking. In turn, the CLIR contributes $6,000 per year to the University.

“We’ve had wonderful faculty members come in and speak,” Love says. “Steve is phenomenal at asking people to lecture. We’ve had presentations from the UConn president and provost, as well as almost every dean. Little by little, the group is becoming more woven into the UConn community.”

“This program is an example of why we need to be reflective about aging. When I went around the country, there were 95-year-olds teaching amazing dynamic courses that people couldn’t wait to get into. In our society, we tend to say that at a certain age we are done. For me, this program has been such a gift.”

“Land grant universities were set up to serve all of the population,” Love points out. “Lifelong learning is a form of adult education and this outreach is critical to the mission of Extension.”

Love hopes to build more partnerships with Extension, the University and the community. “I think there are collaborative partnerships that we could build that would engage populations of all ages with the community in ways that would be very powerful. Including everyone in the work of a community provides us with resources we may otherwise overlook. CLIR is a community resource that has provided an outstanding service for adult learners for twenty-five years.”

CLIR provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. There are no academic requirements.

CLIR classes are offered in two formats: single classes and courses. A single class consists of one and a half hours. A course consists of two or more classes scheduled in successive weeks.

All classes are held at the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot Campus. Join CLIR today, new members are always welcome. You are invited to sample a single class or two at no cost.

Summer CLIR Classes

CLIR group


The Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) offers lively discussions on various topics, moderated by Betty Heiss and Lynn Mardon on Wednesdays, June 28 and July 5, 12, 19, and 26, 1:15 – 2:45 at Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus.  If you would like to suggest a discussion topic with which you have some familiarity, email Betty at or Lynn at  Please include your phone number.  We hope you’ll join us!


April Classes with Lifelong Learning

CLIR group

CLIR classes for April, held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs and Great Decisions.


Memoir Club – Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27 from 10:15-11:45

Great Decisions:  topics in foreign policy – Tuesdays, April 11, 18, 25  from 10:15-11:45

What is The Enlightenment? – Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27

UConn President Susan Herbst – Wednesday, April 12

The Nationalist/Populist Reaction to Globalism: A Threat to Democratic Forms of Government – Tuesday, April 18

They Return: Our Defender and Prosecutor – Wednesday, April 19

Savor the Moment: cultivating awareness using mind-body experience – Friday, April 21

Under the Hood of Genetically-Engineered Crops – Tuesday, April 25

Legal and Constitutional Origins of Racism in America – Wednesday, April 26

Lifelong Learning: February Classes

CLIR groupCLIR lifelong learning classes for February, held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs:

Memoir Club – Thursdays, February 2, 9, 16, 23           10:15-11:45

The Politics of War and Peace – Wednesday, February 1

Crumbling Foundations in CT Homes:  A Contractor’s Perspective – Tuesday, February 7

The Role of the Barber Shop in Southern Black Culture – Wednesday, February 8

Crumbling Foundations in CT Homes:  An Attorney’s Perspective – Wednesday, February 15

Living with Intention:  The Art of Letting Go – Thursday, February 16

The Ugly Side of Cute:  Anthropomorphism and Conceptual Metaphor – Tuesday, February 28

Lifelong Learning – January Classes

string group

The Center for Learning In Retirement, or CLIR is offering classes for January, focusing on lifelong learning. All classes are held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs:


Memoir Club, Thursdays, January 5 – March 30; 10:15-11:45

Making Cladograms, Tuesday, January 10

American Elections: Myths, Legends and Modern Reality

(presented by CT Secretary of the State Denise Merrill), Thursday, January 12

Medical Marijuana, Wednesday, January 18

Being Prepared Isn’t Just for Boy Scouts, Thursday, January 19

CAFE Guitar (live performance and discussion), Tuesday, January 24

The Politics of War and Peace, Wednesdays, January 25 and February 1

Climate and Hunter-Gatherers:  How the Environment Shaped Prehistory, Tuesday, January 31

For more information, please visit our website at: