Early SOAR History
In the late 1990s, the Assistant Dean for off-campus sites of Wayne State’s then College of Lifelong Learning, sought permission to develop a “Learning in Retirement Institute,” one that would be sponsored by the University and affiliated with Elder Hostel Institute (Now Road Scholar). Permission was granted, and an advisory board convened. The board consisted of faculty and staff members drawn from Wayne State’s College of Education, School of Social Work, and Department of Gerontology, plus representatives from such local agencies as the Area Agency on Aging. The advisory board, supplemented by a group of recently retired WSU faculty members who wished to remain actively engaged with the greater community, was critically aware that the University lacked a meaningful outreach program aimed at the retired community. Hoping to redress the situation, a proposal to create such a program was drafted. The University’s response was positive, and it agreed to assist the fledgling enterprise by housing the program at WSU’s Oakland Center in Farmington Hills. With University support, a Schedule of Classes consisting of some 20 courses was cobbled together and with minimal publicity disseminated to the public at large. Though encouraged by its initial success, the most optimistic members of that pioneering group anticipated that perhaps 50 to 75 people might be sufficiently interested to register for courses offered during the fall of 2003, SOAR’s first term. To everyone’s surprise and delight, more than 300 attended an opening reception; some 250 actually enrolled. Since that first term, SOAR has prospered. Currently, between 700 and 800 members enroll in courses offered during each of the Society’s regular fall and spring terms. Every effort is made to maintain the quality and intellectual rigor of the entire SOAR program, not only its academic offerings. Indeed, the wide range of options offered by SOAR has elicited widespread support from its members, for many of whom the Society has become a vital social as well as intellectual component of their lives. SOAR has been lauded by the University for the good will it has generated in the local community and has been recognized nationally for the excellence of its programs.