Maine Senior College Network news & updates

December 2023

Welcome to the December issue of the MSCN newsletter.

We have many excellent classes and talks to look forward to in 2024. While some colleges are still preparing their winter and spring offerings, others are already open for registrations. Keep your eye on the MSCN Course Catalog web page for updates! The page links you to each college catalog when it becomes available. A few upcoming Zoom offerings are featured in this issue for those who love a good online class.

We all love a good story, and there is a unique dimension when it resonates with our own experience. The December newsletter features an essay by Sunrise Senior College member (and former board chair) Joan Miller. Joan shares her retirement story and describes how her world changed when she discovered her local senior college. Joan fell in love with lifelong learning classes, relishing the broad range of topics and volunteering to assist Sunrise in finding new offerings. Joan wrote this essay for a small memoir writing group that grew from a class taught by the inspirational Maine writer Elizabeth Peavey

Make yourself a nice cup of tea, sit back, and read this month's newsletter. Happy Holidays to you all!

Anne Cardale

Program Director

Maine Senior College Network

Wikimedia Image:

Winter Landscape


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Please scroll down the page to see each article!

Midcoast Senior College

MSC Singers to perform at Chocolate Church Arts Center's "Sing! It's Christmas"


University of Maine at Augusta Senior College 

2024 Coming Attractions

Winter Lecture Series


Acadia Senior College Presents:

Banned Books I Love


Gold LEAF Institute Presents:

"We are AI: Taking Control of Technology Learning Circle."


Sunrise Senior College Presents

Systematics: A Discipline that Bridges Time



What I Like About Sunrise Senior College

By Joan Miller


The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen

Book Review

by Pat Davidson Reef:

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For the latest Winter course catalogs from the network.

Midcoast Senior College

Midcoast Senior College Singers to perform at Chocolate Church Arts Center's "Sing! It's Christmas" annual event.

Monday, December 18, 2023

7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Chocolate Church Arts Center, Bath


Enjoy an evening of music at the Chocolate Church Arts Center's annual "Sing! It's Christmas." For decades, family and friends have gathered at the CCAC on the last Monday before Christmas to sing and celebrate the season.

This year the Midcoast Senior College Singers will join this special musical tradition!

The annual community sing-a-long brings together the community for a wonderful evening of music.


Bring your friends, family, and neighbors!

Contact Midcoast SC

18 Middle St., Suite 2, Brunswick, ME 04011

Send an email. or Telephone: 207-725-4900

Midcoast Senior College

University of Maine at Augusta Senior College

2024 Coming Attractions

Winter Lecture Series

The series will kick off on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, at 1 PM.

All lectures are free!

Spread the word!

All lectures are free and open to the public, so spread the word and invite your friends to join us! All winter lectures will be Zoom only, so no worries about winter driving!

Jan 9    

Steven Podsiadlo - Salt Marsh Basics

Jan 16   

Jim Schneid - Understanding Common Respiratory Conditions

Jan 23   

Chris Williamson - The 1913 Armory Show and its Ripples in Maine

Jan 30

Mike Bell - Thaddeus Stevens: Man of Principle and Courage

Feb 6

Lawrence Wade - Grain Loading and Delivery in a Tankship

Feb 13  

John Sutton - Maine Railroads: Then, Now and Future

Feb 20  

Patricia Sullivan - Flora and Fauna as Travel Enticements

Feb 27   

Elizabeth Reinsborough - Journey to Kathmandu

Mar 5   

Shelly Gerstein - Living with an EV in Central Maine

Please visit our web page for updates and registration information.

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Hare in Winter Landscape

by Bruno Liljefors

Acadia Senior College Presents:

Banned Books I Love

January 26, 2024

11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Hybrid event

Hybrid event - Online Zoom registrations are Free!

Location: In-person at Birch Bay Village Inn, Bar Harbor, and online via Zoom

Join Acadia Senior College for a stimulating session with four of our local library leaders, who will each share one of their favorite banned books. Come and find out which titles they will pick and join the conversation! 

Amy Wisehart, Library Director at Northeast Harbor Library, will also discuss recent book ban attempts and trends in Maine.

The Zoom presentation is free and begins at noon. If you register for the online talk you will receive the link the day before the event.

Reserve your free Zoom seat!

Matt DeLaney is the Director at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, a position he has held since August 2021. Prior to that, Matt was the Director at the Millinocket Memorial Library, where he was a recipient of the Maine Library Association’s Outstanding Librarian of the Year. 

Bob Delsandro is a resident of Somesville – Bob has been reading banned books since he was a teen. Having grown up in the suburbs of New Jersey, he is passionate about being part of and serving the communities in which he lives with kindness, generosity, and love.

Erich Reed has been a passionate reader and library user from childhood on as he grew up in Casco, Maine. In college, he had several work study jobs in the library and decided that he wanted to become a librarian at the age of 40. After college, he worked intermittently in Oregon factories and managed a used and antiquarian bookshop before returning to the East Coast to get his library degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Just a few years ahead of schedule, he worked at the Blue Hill Public Library as Assistant Director and then as a high school librarian at George Stevens Academy before becoming the Director at the Southwest Harbor Public Library.

Amy Wisehart is the director of the Northeast Harbor Library. She's been a public library director for ten years and has worked in libraries for fourteen years. She holds a master's degree in library and information science from Simmons University. Amy is currently the vice president of the Maine Library Association, a board she's served on for three years. She lives with her young son in Mount Desert and enjoys hiking, reading, and writing. 

For more information visit

Acadia Senior College

The Gold LEAF Institute presents:

We are AI: Taking Control of Technology Learning Circle

with Michelle Navarre

Zoom Class

Tuesdays, January 16, 23, 30, February 6, 20

Register - $16

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) refers to a growing world of sophisticated computer programs that “learn” from data in order to make decisions. Many of these AI systems are invisible to the public, yet the results of the decisions they make (or help humans make) have a huge impact on modern life.

"For many of us, AI primarily impacts the way we do things online: it controls whose updates we read on Facebook, which products we select on Amazon, and which movies we watch on Netflix. However, AI is increasingly being used to make decisions in more serious areas of life like hiring (E.g., deciding whose resume gets reviewed by a human and whose gets skipped), education (E.g., assigning grades based on past performance), and even law enforcement (E.g., helping a judge decide who gets bail).

Because of how important AI is in our lives, we should understand how it works so that we can control it together! The goal of this 5-week learning circle course is to introduce the basics of AI, discuss some of the social and ethical dimensions of the use of AI in modern life, and empower individuals to engage with how AI is used and governed." This learning circle was developed by the Center for Responsible AI (R/AI) at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), and the Queens Public Library (QPL).

Michelle and Chip are a retired couple living in New Vineyard. Before retiring, Michelle was a professor and academic administrator who focused on transforming higher education institutions to better serve adult learners. She has worked with Peer-to-Peer University to develop credit-bearing learning circles for those considering a return to higher education. After earning an MBA and a Ph.D. in Computer Science, Chip combined technology with learning sciences to build training and development systems.

Click here to register

The Gold LEAF Institute

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HAZAN AI portrait 2023

Sunrise Senior College presents the following hybrid class

Systematics: A Discipline that Bridges Time

with Dr. Eric Jones

 March 21st to April 4th, 2024

Register $15

Why not join Dr. Eric Jones as we welcome him back to delve into the fascinating biological world of Systematics? Systa-who??, you might ask. What’s that? Well, it’s the study of organism identification, classification, and nomenclature. It is concerned with the evolution of organisms' relationships. The classification of organisms into various kingdoms has all been done using Systematics.

This course will introduce you to the biological discipline of Systematics. Work in this discipline has been used to illuminate the history of life on Earth. The course will include philosophical, theoretical, and practical aspects of the discipline. Students will be introduced to phylograms - “diagrams that describe the relations among organisms” - including their construction and inferences that can be drawn from them. During this three-session class, you will gain insight into the philosophical and theoretical basis of the discipline, have a brief introduction to the methods of phylogenetic inference, and explore the applications of Systematics to the broader discipline of biology. 

Instructor: Dr. Eric Jones is the Associate Professor of Botany at the University of Maine at Machias and Director of the University of Maine at Machias Herbarium. There he teaches Plant Systematics on a regular (biennial) basis. Phylogenetic inference served as a cornerstone for his dissertation work on the mating systems of flowering plants.

Class Information: This is a hybrid class - held in-person at the University of Maine at Machias, Room Science 102, and via Zoom.

Click here to register for Systematics: A Discipline that Bridges Time

Sunrise has more hybrid classes for spring 2024.

Click here to see all nine of our spring offerings.

Sunrise Senior College

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Rythme, Joie de vivre

Robert Delaunay

What I Like About Sunrise Senior College

By Joan Miller, Machias

When I retired from working at Down East Community Hospital in Machias as a medical surgical nurse (and later as a RN Supervisor) for over 20 years, I was lost. I didn't know what to do with myself. All my friends were still working. I had no social life. I lived alone. I used to love to cook for my family and take treats for the staff and friends at the hospital. Now it had all changed. My kids had grown up and moved. I wasn't part of the close-knit groups at the hospital. After a productive lifetime of nursing responsibilities and obligations, I felt disconnected and useless.

I thought about taking a few courses at the University of Maine at Machias. One day I got brave and went to check on classes. I ran into an acquaintance, who suggested I try Sunrise Senior College (SSC), which was in session as we chatted. I was told there were no tests, there was no homework – just learning for the joy of learning! 


I learned the only requirement for membership was that applicants must be at least 50 years of age. I was well over the retirement age of 65. There was an annual fee of $25, and each course was $15, single events were $10. A few classes were free, and some were open to the public, usually for a small fee for non-members. Wow! That sounded like something I would like to do. I found out that there was a website where I could join. That address would take me to SSC's home page and list classes that were available. Joining was that easy. 

A number appealed to me, like painting with oils, and then a travel program, discussing faraway places like the Grand Canyon, and maybe a trip to the White Villages in Spain. Also listed were New Year’s resolutions, bird sounds heard in Downeast Maine, and migration of our local birds. I thought to myself, “This is really a great find. I know I will love these classes.” 

When I found myself at the first program, which was held in the Science Building at the university, attendees warmly greeted me and introduced themselves. We found we had much to share, being fellow retirees. 

Before long, I was doing more than just taking classes. I joined committees to help find people who could teach various topics. SSC offered both educational topics and crafty things, like how to plant and harvest your garden, how to sew your grandchild's little shirts, or how to use your iPhone. If you wanted to learn something specific, all you had to do was name your topic and help find someone who could educate the group.

The very best part of joining SSC was that I took a couple of writing classes. I can remember enjoying writing since my high school days, and I still dreamed of one day being published. My first class was on writing fiction. Our fiction group met in person in a classroom at UMM. I enjoyed concocting mysteries. And amazingly, the group looked forward to hearing my “whodunits.” The class finished in just a few weeks.

The second writing class was on memoir writing. Members of this group, most of whom were in their seventies and eighties, met on a then-mysterious computer platform called Zoom. This was 2016, several years before the pandemic would make Zoom part of our everyday lives. Through Senior College, each of us was trained in how to set up Zoom on our computers and use the program.


Once trained, we met to share our stories, under the instruction of our wonderful leader, Elizabeth Peavey. One member of the group was from Aroostook County, another from Lewiston, a third from Portland, and another from Bethel. In other words, the 10 of us were from all over the state. We became fast friends and continued meeting long after our 10-week class was finished. Seven years later, we are still meeting, although, sadly, two members of our group have passed away. But the rest of us continue writing and sharing our life stories.

During the start of the pandemic, Elizabeth returned to visit the group, and she now joins us monthly to also share her stories as well as her comments about our writing. She always remarks how much all of us have improved. I look forward to our meeting days and to finding out what memoir each one will share. I wonder if they will share that they had difficulty adjusting to retired life and if they are enjoying senior college, wherever they are.

As you might be able to gather, I have not been lonely or bored since “finding” Sunrise Senior College. There is so much to do, I don't have time to be upset about not cooking, about having no friends. It all changed when that wonderful person introduced me to SSC! 


And who knows? Maybe someday, that dream of seeing my words in print might come true – maybe even here!

Sunrise Senior College

Wikimedia Image


Frederic Edwin Church

The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen

Pub Thomas & Mercer, Seattle U.S.A. 2023

Pages 350 Price $28.99

Reviewed by Pat Davidson Reef

Tess Gerritsen’s new book “The Spy Coast” is riveting as it reveals the adventures of Maggie Bird, a retired CIA agent. Unlike Garritsen’s other wonderful mysteries, this work deals with a heroine who is in her early 60s and her exciting, retired, senior citizen friends. Gerritsen mentioned that she purposely wrote about senior citizens in this book to focus on their wisdom and experience because seniors are an important part of our society.

Tess Gerritsen lives in Camden, Maine and has lived there for 30 years. Gerritsen is a retired doctor and began writing while on maternity leave from her job as a physician. She reached the New York Times Best Sellers list with her 1996 medical thriller “Harvest,” which is based on her experience as a doctor. She has published more than 30 mysteries, including 12 in her Rizzoli/Isles series, which inspired the television show Rizzoli and Isles series now often re-run on channel 44 in Maine in afternoons. In each book, there is a medical emergency that is described at length within the theme, which focuses on a murder mystery. Her books often include many murders in the same tale with unusual twists in the plots. The description of characters in her books is so well done that they become your friends. Her style of dialogue is fast and realistic as the action takes place. The author shows retirees leading active lives, using their sharp minds with much to offer from their life experiences.

In her new book, “The Spy Coast,” her heroine is Maggie Bird, a retired woman in her early 60s living quietly in “Purity,” Maine raising chickens on Blackberry Farm. This is Maggie's home, established after years of travel and international intrigue as a CIA agent. Purity is an imaginary town on the east coast, similar to Camden, Maine. Maggie is part of a group of retired professional CIA members who have also moved to Maine for peace and privacy. They all meet once a month for a potluck supper in a book club, which they call “The Martini Club.”

One day, out of the blue, a young woman in her 30s named Bianca (apparently from the CIA) appears at her home and asks for her help in finding Diana Ward, an old colleague that Maggie has not seen in decades. Maggie dismisses the request immediately; she does not want any active involvement with past connections with the agency. She is retired and wants privacy, and that is why she selected to retire in a small town in Maine.

However, coming home after a book club meeting, Maggie finds her driveway lined with police cars and strobe lights. A woman’s dead body, (Bianca), lies on the driveway. Who murdered this woman and why is the first focus of the story. There are, however, many other murders that are found in flashbacks in the book, covering 25 years of global travels and intrigues.

The senior citizen book club gleefully wants to help Maggie solve the murder in her driveway, but one member says, “First, they tell us we are too old. Then they ask us for our help.”  The book club of four seasoned retired CIA professionals from the CIA realizes Bianca, the murdered victim, was asking for help from the agency, a concept Maggie understands, which local authorities are unaware of. Maggie quietly looks at the body in her driveway and notices characteristics in her hands that indicate the dead woman has been tortured, a fact that the locals miss.  

However, an important local authority who tries to help solve the mystery but does not have international experience is Police Chief Jo Thibodeau. She is the first woman to hold the position of Chief of Police in Purity, Maine. She tries her best and is good, but you can’t beat experience, age, and maturity like the senior citizens in the book club. In addition she receives subtle antagonism from the professional group who volunteer to help. 

Flashbacks include murders globally and Maggie’s mad and passionate love affair with handsome Dr. Danny Gallagher in Barcelona, Paris, London, Bangkok, and Istanbul. Gallagher is a medical doctor who once worked with refugees and the poor but now works in a clinic where wealthy Russian oligarchs obtain expert medical attention. In this flashback, Maggie is asked to spy on Russia through her connection to Danny, whom she has married and who might hear important secrets from Russian oligarchs who are his patients.

This is an incredible novel that has many twists and turns in it and takes you from the British Museum in London to a simple and refreshing small town farm in Maine. The book’s characters are complex yet believable and have lived colorful lives. If you love world travel and unraveling mysteries that are intricate, you will love this book. I did, and I recommend the book highly.

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