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Seattle University


Day of Learning

Written by Annie Beckmann
July 15, 2013

Commencement was recent history, summer classes were yet to begin and an uncharacteristic quiet embraced the campus at Seattle University.

The morning calm quickly turned into hectic activity near the Pigott Building as buses arrived from Seattle retirement communities. Soon a line wound its way out the door of Pigott and 100 older adults, including a smattering of alumni, were eager to participate in "A Day of Learning," sponsored jointly by SU, Horizon House Retirement Community and the Northwest Center for Creative Aging. 

Once equipped with name tags and lunch tickets, the crowd gathered at Pigott Auditorium and smiled knowingly in response to greetings from SU Associate Provost Charles Lawrence.

"I must have been 55 when I realized I was a lifelong learner," Lawrence conceded. "It takes awhile-even when you're in education-to find this out."  

Five SU professors offered classroom experiences for the older learners. About 40 of them were curious about social media and came to hear Chris Paul, associate professor of communications and journalism, describe the dizzying ways Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are changing how people communicate, share ideas and report the news.

Paul Kidder, associate professor of philosophy, shared his insights about what makes cities livable by examining the roles of street planning, preservation, development, community life and architecture. 

Paulette Kidder (pictured above) also an associate professor of philosophy (and married to Paul), grabbed the attention of more than 20 participants-including several experienced medical practitioners-interested in health-care ethics and the unprecedented changes of the past century.

She described a few of the famous ethics cases, including a local one that resulted in the birth of modern-day bioethics. It took place at Seattle's Swedish Hospital in 1962 with what was described as a "God Committee." Featured in national publications at the time, this committee of seven at Swedish selected which patients would receive kidney dialysis-still a new procedure then-and which patients would not and likely die. Medical miracles such as dialysis became moral burdens, according to Kidder.

"Then Congress passed a law where the federal government would pay for kidney dialysis. The federal government continues to pay for dialysis today because of this event and all the publicity. It's a strange twist of history and the beginning of modern bioethics," she said.

Drama lured another group of elder students to hear Professor Ki Gottberg and Associate Professor Rosa Joshi from the Fine Arts Department. They provided a glimpse into the world of theater with insights about storytelling, script writing, directing, stage management and more.

After a couple hours in classes, it was time for lunch and animated conversation with the five SU professors in the food court at the Student Center's Cherry Street Market.

Now in its third year, the on-campus experience for older adults drew the largest attendance ever in 2013. The event is expected to continue annually each June. For more information, contact the Northwest Center for Creative Aging at or call (206) 382-3789.