Alumna extols virtues of lifelong learning

By Laura Churchill Duke (’98)

“Just as learning and stimulation are important for a child’s mind, it is equally important for an elderly mind, as well as for all those in-between!” says Blanca Baquero (’16), who graduated from Acadia at the age of 72 with a major in French and a minor in Spanish.

Baquero has always been a lifelong learner, taking university courses on and off, mostly for the sheer pleasure of it. She did three years of a history degree and later obtained a certificate of proficiency in the German language, but working and being the mother of three girls became a priority so schooling was put on hold.

As she approached her middle sixties, Baquero says she began to ask herself what she could do to mark her retirement. It was then she decided to complete a university degree since she had loved learning all her life.

Beginning in 2007, and over the course of the following eight years, Baquero accomplished her goal.

“I started out slowly as, I must admit, there was a part of me that wasn’t sure if I still had the capacity not only to study, but to work, to be a beneficial citizen to the community, and continue doing all the many other activities I was involved in,” she says.

During her studies, Baquero had a one-semester setback when she had an emergency ostomy operation because of a perforated bowel. Buoyed by a successful outcome, Baquero decided she wanted to give back to life and society, and perhaps support people who were not as lucky as she was.

Wide range of topics

Because of her affection for knowledge and the fact she had attended Acadia Lifelong Learning (ALL) events for the past 10 years, Baquero offered to share her story at one of ALL’s lunch-time learning sessions.

ALL was created in 2000 to offer faculty knowledge to the greater community, not just students, says Jessica Bradley, who oversees the program as coordinator of non-credit programs within Open Acadia. ALL has now expanded to include community members as instructors and presenters, allowing for a wide range of topics.

Bradley explains that ALL offers not only a free lunch-time learning series every Friday in Patterson Hall, but also over 20 courses and events that any adult can enjoy.

“Originally, the program was designed for members of our community who were 50-plus, but a few years ago we removed that age limit to allow for more flexibility in our programming,” Bradley says. “Typically, the majority of our membership is retired, but we do have a number of people who are still working that enjoy our programming.”

This fall, Acadia faculty members and alumni like Baquero who will donate their time and skills to the lunch-time learning series include Janna Wentzell (‘94), Gordon Michael (’71) and John Murimboh, as well as students of the History 3203 class. Topics will range from Baquero’s talk on ostomy bags to luxury traveling on a shoestring, exercise and electric cars.

Plenty of local talent

Besides these free lunch-time sessions, there are a series of fee-based courses each term taught by instructors who love what they do, or did do in their careers before they retired, and they want to share their knowledge, Bradley says. There is no requirement that instructors have any connection to Acadia at all.

“Many people living in Wolfville have come from away and chosen to retire in Wolfville, so we have lots of talented people in our immediate area who are more than happy to share their knowledge,” Bradley adds. “This year we go from art classes, to craft beer appreciation, to climate change, to Shakespeare, and lots in-between.”

Also, the ALL advisory board will focus on helping Dalhousie with its upcoming Mentoring Plus project, which pairs retirees with young adults in the community to help with career paths and advice.

Baquero says it is so important for alumni to give back because it lays the foundation for connectivity and the maintenance of continuous sharing from one generation to the next.

“We all need each other in all phases of life and we should help to bring out the best in one another,” she says.

To find the list of upcoming lunchtime learning and course topics, or to volunteer to be or nominate a speaker, click here or visit: .

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