MVILR enriches lives after retirement

Published Sep 24, 2017 at 9:00am

MARCY — For 21 years, Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement has provided an array of opportunities for local seniors to “learn, live, grow, move, think, socialize and create.”

Located at the SUNY-Polytechnic Institute campus, Kunsela Hall, MVILR hosts classes in physical fitness, arts and crafts, history, literature, photography, language, philosophy, computer science, music and more, without the pressures of homework, grades or final exams. Taught by “facilitators,” MVILR courses are shared by community members who have a passion for the subject matter. Some, like President Fred Capozzella, are even retired teachers who want to encourage life-long learning. Others are working professors at the college.

MVILR members elect officers and provide stimulating educational opportunities for themselves and their peers in the community. Courses are planned and led on a volunteer basis by members and invited guest speakers, and vary in length from one day to eight weeks. MVILR students take stimulating academic, non-credit courses in SUNY-Poly’s state-of-the-art classrooms.

MVILR full memberships are $210 and SUNY Poly parking stickers are $22. Handicapped parking is available with appropriate vehicle identification and available through the University Police department.

Every MVILR member is entitled to take three, eight-week academic courses per semester, or the equivalent, plus extra and bonus courses which do not count toward the course quota for the semester. Classes are offered in fall, winter and spring terms.

“It’s an important point for us that courses we offer this time (in the fall) are dramatically different from what we will offer in the winter and spring,” Capozzella said. “We make an effort to appeal to a variety of interests.”

The MVILR board usually meets weekly to discuss what courses will be taught in future terms.

Complete course information for the current semester and other pertinent announcements are available online. For more information, call the MVILR office at 315-792-7192 or 315-792-7292, or email at or


Executive Director Lisa Gruenewald Bronk reviewed some of the courses being offered for the fall term, with some openings still available. Classes begin Sept. 25, so those interested are urged to check out what’s being offered online, or call the MVILR office to see what courses still have openings for additional students.

One of the more popular classes for the fall is Verdi: A Life in Four Operas, taught by Stephen Keyser, who will disuse and play segments of some of the composer’s greatest works,Bronk said. There are still seats available for The American Revolution, taught by Erwin Deimel, who will review the accession of King George III, major battles and treaties. And if modern history is more a student’s passion, Don Gondek will teach Cold War Espionage, which will discuss spy planes and the inventions of the hot air balloon, gun powder, camera and roll film, and the beginning of aviation.

A new course for the fall term is Getting to Know Refugees, taught by Dr. Kathryn Stam, a professor at SUNY-Poly.

“There has been much interest in that course and it’s something that’s very timely,” Bronk said. Another timely course being offered, Bronk said, is Of Hot Air & Hot Water: Global Warming & Changing Climates, facilitated by Adrian Pollock.

“The people facilitating the courses are not necessarily practicing scientists, but they have a strong interest in the subject,” Capozzella said.


First Vice-president Cynthia DeTraglia said MVILR offers classes that can help enrich seniors’ day-to-day lives like Harmonizing Your Home: Finding the Right Fit in Retirement, by Wendy Eden. “It’s for seniors to learn organization and down-sizing for their homes in retirement, or if they plan to move into a smaller home,” DeTraglia said.

As seniors “live” out their dreams in retirement, they are encouraged to share their experiences with fellow seniors. That opportunity persists in such classes as Ecuador Including Quito, the Amazon & Galapagos, presented by Larry and Shirley Knop.

The Knops “traveled there and they will show what they saw and did there,” DeTraglia said.

As for such classes, “A lot of people have life experiences that they’re willing to share,” said Capozzella.


“The twist is on life-long learning,” said Bronk of the MVILR programming. Courses also help seniors “grow” by having them explore unique subjects or look at old ones from a different angle. L.G.B.T.Q., taught by Christine Reister, presents factual information to clarify terminology regarding current gender issues. Local Entrepreneurs: Four Success Stories, presented by Irving Mason, shows retirees how local business people have successfully started and operated their growing businesses.

What You Need to Know about Revocable & Irrevocable Trusts, taught by Attorney D. Victor Pellegrino, is for seniors to gain knowledge in how to manage their assets in case they become physically or mentally unable to do it on their own.

Soul Maps: How to Become the Best Version of Yourself, taught by Rabbi Didy Waks, takes a look at human psychology, reviewing a 200-year-old text that was the precursor to the self-help genre.

“You can’t always go play golf or go out to lunch” with friends, said DeTraglia when referring to retirement. “The key to (successfully) getting older is to keep your body and mind active.”


Some courses, like Pickleball, meet off campus. Pickleball is held Fridays for eight weeks at the Jewish Community Center, 2310 Oneida St., Utica. The game was invented in the mid-1960s and combines features of badminton, tennis and ping-pong. There is also the Aquatic Wellness Class, facilitated by Dr. John DeTraglia, that meets eight weeks at the Sitrin Health Care Center in New Hartford.

There are courses that have longevity and constant popularity with MVILR students also, such as Stay Young Strong Bones, Zumba Gold Toning, Gentle Yoga and Joint Stability & Mobility/Chair.

Try Curling will be held for three weeks at Utica Curling Club in hopes it can garner more interest in the sport and membership at the club, Bronk said.


Classes entertain and challenge seniors at the same time, such as More Than Sherlock: The Mysteries of PBS, facilitated by Lois Silverman, “Killing Reagan,” by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard, a book and movie review taught by Nadia Caleo, and Beth Stookey’s Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, where students get to view and discuss episodes from the science-fiction television show that ran from October 1959 through June 1964.

A very popular course over the years, Bronk said, is News, Views and You, facilitated by Richard Reister, where classmates discuss what’s in the news and share their opinions.


MVILR is also a place to get involved in social activities and meet new people. Easy Party Dances for Any Occasion, by Gracie Schell, teaches seniors simple dances while focusing on endurance, flexibility and balance. To help seniors “de-stress,” DeTraglia said MVILR is offering Meditation: Recipes for Emancipation, where classmates deepen their own understanding of how to meditate and relax. The Movie Lovers Group, by Beth Stookey and Maryann Zogby, gets out to the local theaters to view and discuss the latest films.

Friendship and Dining, hosted by Marsha Mason, has participants visiting local restaurants for food and conversation.

In MVILR, “You’re introduced to people you wouldn’t meet in any other way,” DeTraglia said. “There’s people with a huge variety of backgrounds and different perspectives.”


There are also courses centered around the arts and creating, such as Carol Bandych’s Unique Paper-Folded Box class, Tom Talbot’s Introduction to Clock Repair, Connie Watkins’ Explore the World of Pastels and Illustrative Writing, facilitated by Joanne DeStefano. Capozzella will teach Introduction to Poetry, an introduction to figurative language.

Programming at MVILR “is enriching on a lot more levels than you may think,” Capozzella said.

To learn more about MVILR courses and what opportunities are still open for the fall term, call the MVILR Office at 315-792-7192 and 315-792-7292; email:; or check out the website at