Looking for a Flexible Education Program

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What many Baby Boomers are proving today is that retirement is full of opportunity. Many are reentering the workforce while others, like Sandy and Phil Marks, are expanding their knowledge through various lifelong learning programs.

After spending his career in the local government of St. Louis, Boston and Montgomery County, Phil is now involved in the governments of their current home, Leisure World. Sandy, a former real estate processor and manager for a medical office, is an avid knitter who has taken a few classes through Montgomery College’s Lifelong Learning Institute.

The high school sweethearts, married for 41 years, have also kept busy visiting with their two daughters and five grandchildren and taking daytrips through their community’s travel organization.

Their desire to learn new ideas led the Marks to research different educational programs in the area that would offer a flexible schedule and allow them to learn on their own terms.

“Someone mentioned the OASIS program to us and it has just been the most incredible thing,” said Sandy. “The exposure we’re getting is amazing.”

A national nonprofit organization, OASIS offers challenging programs in the arts, humanities, wellness, technology and volunteer service for those age 50 and over. The Montgomery OASIS branch is sponsored by the Macy’s Foundation and Suburban Hospital and runs on a three-semester cycle with morning and afternoon and some evening and weekend sessions.

Now in their third year with the program, the Marks could not be more pleased with the variety of courses that are offered, as they often venture to separate classes. “Many of the courses are one shot deals which gives you the opportunity to test the waters without making an enormous time commitment,” said Phil.

With their interest in politics, the couple has enjoyed courses on different presidents from Roosevelt to George W. Bush. They have also attended classes on composers that have featured live music from the Washington Society for the Performing Arts.

The program even features several experienced speakers from around the area. “Washington is rich with experts so it’s a matter of being able to capture them,” said Phil.

“I’m a groupie of Ernest Liotti from the Peabody Institute,” Sandy added with a laugh. “He’s so knowledgeable with his programs on films and composers.”

By listening to expert speakers ranging from former ambassadors to Pulitzer Prize winners, and taking several courses including a Lewis and Clark series, the Marks are certainly challenging themselves and using their retirement to continue growing as individuals.

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