In early December 2016, Eve Finnessy began her role as the new executive director of Forever Learning Institute in South Bend. In this role she is responsible for all the daily operations of Forever Learning and also works closely with the board of directors, who appointed her to the position, in promoting the purpose and future growth of the ongoing education center for senior citizens.
Finnessy brings extensive, relevant experience to Forever Learning. After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in journalism and telecommunications, she was a writer and editor for a newspaper in the Fort Wayne area. She then developed an interest in marketing and became director of marketing and member services for a large nonprofit professional association in Chicago. She has also substituted for Penn Harris Madison School Corporation and served as interim director of religious education for St. Pius X Catholic Church.
Finnessy also makes time to give back to the community in Granger, where she resides with her husband, John, and their three children. She volunteers at the Women’s Care Center, REAL Services and as a catechist at St. Pius X.
The Forever Learning Institute was founded by Father Louis J. Putz, CSC, in 1974. He emigrated from Germany alone, at age 15, following World War I. He entered Holy Cross seminary and remained involved with the University of Notre Dame his entire life. Finnessy said, “We consider him to have been a visionary, particularly as it relates to a population that is aging, but not done living. He referred to people in that phase of life as third-agers, meaning a phase of life where the pressures to earn a living have passed and now there is time to return back all that you have learned. This was the concept that lead to the establishment of Forever Learning.”
The institute is open to area residents age 50 and older. Students and instructors learn from each other through their career and life experiences. The average age of the students is 73. Finnessy said, “We are a unique program, and I believe the only one like it in the country. We have 120 faculty members and teach 1,600 students each year. Many faculty are also students.”
The offices and main campus of Forever Learning Institute are at St. Therese, Little Flower Catholic Church. Classes also take place at the St. Joseph Valley Jewish Federation. Forever Learning Institute partners with Fernwood Botanical Gardens, St. Joseph County Parks and Chippewa Bowl. During the upcoming spring semester 93 classes are offered and the subject areas are quite diverse. General areas of study include arts and creative crafts, business and finance, computer and technology, cooking, dance, health and fitness, history, languages, literature, music, science and nature, and spirituality and religion.
All of the instructors with Forever Learning Institute are volunteers. For students, tuition is $45 per class and scholarships are available. The not-for-profit organization largely operates through grants and donations. There are two office staff members, who are the only paid employees. However, there is a very active and involved board of directors dedicated to maintaining a quality program for students and faculty to enjoy.
Little Flower Parish Center allows the Forever Learning Institute to use six classrooms, a full gymnasium and the kitchen for food preparation for functions as well as cooking classes. Class size is determined by each instructor or as space allows. Technology classes are limited to allow for hands-on instruction, and these classes fill up quickly. Other classes, like Zumba or dance, are held in the gymnasium and can hold 60 students if needed. Foreign languages including Spanish, French, German and Hebrew are also taught. Watercolor, literature, knitting, crocheting, quilting and sewing classes are available. For those interested in spiritual growth or music, there is spiritual collage and piano. The institute even has its very own Silvertones singing group that performs at senior centers, churches and club meetings.
Forever Learning Institute is online and on Facebook, and visitors are welcome to stop by and take a campus tour.
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