South Charlotte

Senior Scholars group just keeps on learning

Senior Scholars at Queens, an organization of senior adults and retired people, meets Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m. for lectures on topics in politics, religion, foreign policy, the arts, philosophy and many other subjects.

Their logo, appearing on a newsletter and members' name tags, is an owl with a mortarboard atop its head.

Several groups collaborated to start the club in 1973, including the Charlotte Chapter of AARP, colleges and universities of the Charlotte Area Educational Consortium, and the Community Health Association Senior Forum.

A recent name change, from Senior Scholars to Senior Scholars at Queens, reflects the club's partnership with Queens University of Charlotte. The scholars gather at a conference center at the Queens University of Charlotte Sports Complex on Tyvola Road, space they use for free.

Pennie Cooke, office manager for Queens' Hayworth College for Adult Studies, says Queens also provides members discounted rates for continuing education classes and, space permitting, discounts on auditing undergraduate courses. The university occasionally surveys members regarding classes they'd like to see offered.

"Queens was happy for us to affiliate with them," said Jim Renger, 71, who lives in the Giverny neighborhood near SouthPark and is president of Senior Scholars at Queens. He says the group has about 500 members, with more than 200 people attending meetings lately.

Renger attributes the robust numbers to the spacious new accommodations and the quality of speakers, many drawn from educational institutions.

"We've built up a reputation where speakers like to speak here," he said.

The guest speaker this day was Meg Freeman Whalen, director of communications and external relations for the College of Arts and Architecture at UNC Charlotte, who delivered a program on Holocaust-era violins. She discussed the "Violins of Hope" project coming to Charlotte in April, a series of exhibitions, performances, film screenings and educational programs about music and art in times of oppression.

Some other recent speakers have included Carolyn Sachsenmaier, daughter of former Charlotte mayor Stan Brookshire, who served in the 1960s, and Mecklenburg County commissioner Jennifer Roberts. The club presents speakers with plaques and other tokens of appreciation.

Despite the scholarly pursuits, there is no requirement that members hold academic degrees; nobody asks about educational attainment.

Members, however, tend to be well-educated with varied backgrounds.

Renger says he enjoys the social interaction as well as the lectures. "It's just an excellent organization, especially for retired people," he said.

Membership is $10 per individual per year to cover miscellaneous expenses. There are additional costs for trips; recent ones have included outings to uptown museums. A visit to the BMW automotive plant in Greer, S.C., is planned for spring.

The club also takes an annual study retreat to the North Carolina mountains. This year's retreat is scheduled for May 21-24.