1:32 p.m., March 8, 2011----One of the founding members of the University of Delaware's nationally known lifelong learning program has named the University as beneficiary of a $1 million trust to support the Academy of Lifelong Learning, now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Delaware in Wilmington.
Albert "Bert" Guy Spivey, together with his late wife Jane Knapp Spivey, named the University as beneficiary of the Bert and Jane Spivey Endowment, to support the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Mr. Spivey died on Dec. 23, 2010, and Mrs. Spivey passed away in 1999.
The University's lifelong learning program in Wilmington was one of the first of its kind in the country, formed as an academic cooperative for individuals 50 and over to teach and learn together. Starting out with a membership of 200 and offering 22 courses, the program currently offers approximately 220 courses each semester to an active membership of over 2,100.
"Without Bert and Jane Spivey, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UD would not be the strong, expansive and engaging program it is today," said UD President Patrick Harker. "When you understand just how much joy they took in learning and in sharing their knowledge with others, you understand not only the program's guiding principles but also the wonderful community it serves."
Harker added, "This extraordinary gift is the Spiveys' legacy, and there couldn't be one more fitting or more beneficial to the state's intellectual vibrancy."
In 1979 and 1980, Mr. Spivey was one of the early leaders in developing the Wilmington lifelong learning program's philosophy and structure, and was elected as the first council chair. From the beginning, he taught a variety of popular courses, lecturing every year until 2005 on a wide range of subject matter, including Anglo-Saxon history, Irish history, photography, history of the Balkans, and a standing-room-only course on Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States.
"Both of my parents were people who had a great wonder about the world, and wanted to delve into an increased knowledge and understanding of ideas, history and the world. The more they learned, the more they wanted to share, in an environment where people would discuss and learn things together," commented daughter Carlisle Spivey. "Keeping the Academy growing and strong was something they were both vitally interested in."
Mr. Spivey's passion for learning led him to Vanderbilt University as a 16-year-old freshman, but his pursuit of a degree was cut short by the Great Depression. The Spiveys moved to Delaware from North Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1978 after Mr. Spivey's retirement from McGraw Hill as a vice president of marketing, and his appetite for education finally found a home.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Spivey played an active role in raising funds for the construction of Arsht Hall, which now houses the program. In 1991, the Spiveys also funded a classroom in the newly constructed Arsht Hall in memory of their youngest daughter, Susan Elizabeth Spivey.
In 1989, Mr. Spivey became the first student to graduate through UD's tuition program for Delaware residents over age 60, earning a bachelor of arts in history at age 74. Carlisle Spivey recalled, "We were extremely proud and excited for his accomplishment, although he personally didn't want to make so much of it. But he was always interested in continuing his education, and he did want to earn that degree, to achieve that formal academic step."
After the Spiveys moved to the Kendal at Longwood retirement community, Mr. Spivey and fellow residents and lifelong learning members Frank Gay and Margery Blumenthal were instrumental in Kendal's establishment of a regular shuttle route to UD's Arsht Hall. "Intellectual stimulation is fully as important as physical exercise as we age," commented Gay. "We argued persuasively to our community's management on the importance of an intellectual outlet such as the Academy, and the virtue of bus service to the Wilmington Campus."
Philanthropy has long been a driving force in the lifelong learning program's success. "Since its founding, first the Academy of Lifelong Learning and now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Delaware have benefited from the generosity of many friends," said Jim Broomall, assistant provost for professional and continuing studies at UD. "Bert Spivey joins Sam and Roxana Arsht and the Bernard Osher Foundation to continue the legacy of giving."
Broomall added, "Bert epitomized the term 'lifelong learner,' from completing a bachelor's degree after a distinguished career to setting the standard for volunteer leadership at the Academy. The Bert and Jane Spivey Endowment is a living testimony to the passion to learn and grow throughout one's life."
Mr. Spivey's zeal for learning never waned. "In the last year of his life, my father was delving deeply into a study of the roles religion has played historically in societies, and in understanding the philosophical and psychological basis for human beings embracing gods and religions," says Carlisle Spivey. "Whether he would have ever officially taught it or not, his writings and thoughts on the subject took the form of a course syllabus, which is how he engaged in the inquiry and research process. For him, the idea was always that any knowledge he gained was meant to be shared."
Article by Nora Riehl Zelluk
Photos courtesy of Carlisle Spivey