The Society for Learning in Retirement, London (SLR) began as a kernel of an idea in 1993 and by 1994 offered its first courses. The intent over the ensuing years has been to appeal to everyone 55+, regardless of their formal education, who are willing to actively participate in their own and others’ learning in a social environment.
SLR has an illustrious pedigree. The idea started at Harvard University and was adopted by a group at McGill University in Montreal. Geoff Wright, one of the founders and former president of the McGill group, moved to London where he began our Society for Learning in Retirement. Another founding member of the McGill group moved to Kelowna B.C. where he began another Society for Learning in Retirement in 1994.
In 1993 four people came together to discuss the possibility of creating the Society. They were Geoff Wright, Ray Gladwell, Bob Stinson, and Bertie Watts, fondly known as our “founding fathers”. A meeting place was a major problem. This was solved by Ray Gladwell, then the Executive Director of Westminster College. He arranged space for two classrooms and an office in a building belonging to Westminster College. It had originally been the London Hunt Club. This began our long association with Westminster College which continues to this day.
We met in this excellent space from 1994 to 2008. Here we offered ten courses in the fall and ten in the winter on a wide variety of topics. Members could join the group of their choice with a limit of twenty members. Each person was responsible for one hour, a short presentation followed by discussion. This format has always attracted people with lively, curious minds who like active participation.
We could have continued in this comfortable mode forever, but the world is not static and change arrives to challenge us. In 2005 Westminster College sold their property to The University of Western Ontario and became a charitable foundation. In 2008 they moved to The Mount, taking us with them and providing space until 2013. While they continued to give us support, we needed to become independent.
In 2007 we incorporated and in 2009 we received charitable status. These steps were taken to ensure our continuation.
In 2009 we added spring courses to our program, and in 2011 we added activity and discussion groups which have proved to be equally popular. Social events and interest groups have added to the variety of offerings available.
We were honoured by the City of London for outstanding service to the community in 2014. That same year we relocated to Grosvenor Lodge, a heritage home owned by the City of London and operated by the London Heritage Foundation. We continue to thrive at that location, expanding in 2017 to include office and meeting space in the former Coach House at the rear of the property.
Meanwhile our history is still unfolding . . .