Lifelong Learning Message from the Director

Lifelong Learning at Swarthmore

The LLS Story Updated
Gil Rose
Lippincott Professor Emeritus of Modern and Classical Languages

Program Director, Gil RoseIt all began with the new millennium. Previously, serious, multi-week, liberal arts courses exclusively for adults could be found only at the big universities. Then in 2002, a group of senior Swarthmore faculty devised a small but ambitious program to be staffed entirely by our cohort and offered to Philadelphia-area alumni of the college as well as other residents. Soon thereafter, LLS opened a branch in Manhattan for Swarthmore alumni, their families and friends.


In October 2016, LLS celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with a gala dinner on campus. Some numbers will testify to our success at that point in time: LLS has given 63 different courses in 18 academic fields, taught by 29 professors and taken by over 800 different adult students.

What accounts for the success of LLS—and the powerful enthusiasm it generates in students and professors alike? First, our students are eager and curious and unencumbered by college-age concerns like grades or choosing a major or a career. Instead, they are looking to invigorate their daily lives with mental stimulation in perhaps a subject they never got around to in college. And they want to experience this not on a computer screen, but face-to-face with an outstanding teacher and other educated adults who bring with them a life already rich in experience.

Equally responsible for its success is our total reliance on Swarthmore’s most experienced professors who also possess the special ability, using both lecture and discussion, to make the intricacies of their field comprehensible and fascinating even to novices. We facilitate this by keeping classes small enough for as much interaction as the students can handle.

End-of-semester social events celebrate our students’ accomplishments and foster a communal spirit among themselves and with their teachers. As a result of all this, an astonishing number of students have taken course after course. Forty-six have taken at least eight courses and thirteen of those have taken sixteen or more.

To close, I quote my original Message from the Director: Lifelong Learning at Swarthmore has struck a deep vein of desire for intellectual challenge, giving proof of the enduring need for high-quality liberal arts education and of Swarthmore’s ability to provide it.

-Gil Rose