Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement
offers educational classes, trips, and tours to retired members of the Chippewa Valley.
History and Origin of CVLR (originally ILR) Fall 1993
At the first department meeting of the Apparel, Textile, and Design Department, the department chair assigned each teacher do some project beyond teaching. Ken Heintz thought Stout needed a system to bring back retired professors and have them offer classes to senior citizens. He was advised to contact Jerry Kirsling and Sharon Olson to help him pursue this project.
In the spring of 1994, the original three met at Sharon’s house and invited others to attend. Mary Bell Hickner helped them get a $200 grant. Ken used some of the grant money to put ads in the Dunn County News about the group. Following this announcement, twenty-eight to thirty people met. Ken invited Marv Lansing to attend the meeting. Jerry Kirsling contacted Betty Bennett at UW Green Bay who had just set up a group of this type in Green Bay. She hopped on a bus and also attended this meeting. They met in the senior center kitchen area and named Marv the first chair of the group. After the meeting, Betty immediately returned to Green Bay via bus.
This group arranged to meet in Heritage Hall/Home Ec Building 210. They used more of their grant money to purchase coffee and donuts. Ken expected about twenty-five people to attend, but one hundred people showed up. They collected $10 in annual dues from each of them and ended up with $1000…money to burn!
That was the first meeting of the organization which became the Institute for Learning in Retirement in the Chippewa Valley. Stout provided an office, and its accounting office processed the group’s monies. The original officers were Marv Lansing, President; Eva Mewes, Treasurer; and Ken Heintz, Secretary.
For sixteen years the organization served predominately Menomonie area residents. In 2010, we left UW-Stout due to financial considerations and became an independent 401(c)(3). Since then, our Eau Claire area membership has blossomed, and our overall membership has tripled. Now CVLR has members from Weyerhauser to the north, Stanley to the east, River Falls to the west, and Hixton to the south. After twenty years, we continue to make the CVLR experience very meaningful for its members.
Courses or sessions offered through the CVLR are open to anyone who is “retired.” There is no particular experience or educational background required of a participant. Course subjects grow out of member interests. Course length, scheduling, and structure are determined by the coordinators. Course leaders do not necessarily have formal credentials. They are people who have knowledge and skills in a particular subject. All coordinators and presenters volunteer their time, efforts, and expertise without monetary compensation. .
Members must pay yearly dues. Some classes and trips have additional costs to cover fees directly incurred for that class or trip. Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement does not take a percentage of the fees charged for these classes and trips but charges the actual costs to the participants.
Elizabeth Fischer – President
John Stoneberg – Vice President
Kay Ironside – Treasurer
Amy Alpine – Co-Secretary
Sally Felling – Co-Secretary
Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement
Fiscal Year August 2019 – July 2020
The tenth fiscal year of Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement from August 2019 through July 2020 contained a normal fall term and an abbreviated spring/summer term. Due to Tony Evers, the Governor of the State of Wisconsin, closing schools as of March 19 because of the COVID 19 pandemic and CVLR policy to follow those instructions, only seven classes, those in the first week of the term March 9 – 13, were held. The classes scheduled on Monday, March 16, through Wednesday, March 18, were cancelled because they were to be held at venues which closed prior to the school closing.
From August, 2019, through July, 2020, CVLR membership grew to 889, an increase of 30 members. Despite curtailing our spring/summer term, members understood the situation. Only two, both of whom signed up for spring/summer 2020 only, terminated their membership and requested a refund. On April 22 the Board decided to cancel the remainder of the spring/summer term, refunding the monies collected for classes with fees and trips. The Board also cancelled the fall 2020 term and applied the spring/summer 2020 membership fee to spring/summer 2021. For current members, the next membership fee collected will be in fall 2021.
While most of CVLR’s membership resides in the core cities of Menomonie and Eau Claire, members come from as far away as Baldwin and Glenwood City to the west; Chetek and Bloomer to the north; Stanley and Cadott to the east; and Hixton, Whitehall, Osseo, and Independence to the south.
We continued our mission of providing educational activities by offering 74 classes and trips in fall 2019 and 80 in spring/summer 2020. We had another enjoyable holiday luncheon at the Florian Gardens featuring entertainment by the Krismas Kookies. In attendance were 366 members, presenters, and guests, close to the 2018 record number of 379.
We are a member-driven, all volunteer organization. Our members belong to Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement because they are intellectually curious. They want to learn about topics of interest to them and socially interact with like-minded individuals in the area. Many of our classes are presented by 65 members this year, an increase of four from the prior year, or contacts of members, tapping into their areas of expertise and their experiences.
We use e-mail to communicate with our membership. We send class reminders via e-mail, announce registration and holiday luncheon mailings, and inform of class changes and cancellations. Since 95% of members have e-mails, this has become a very useful communication tool. In addition to listing the current schedule and updates of what’s happening with CVLR, we use the CVLR Web site to give information on the organization, show photos of projects prior to registration, and host follow-up PowerPoints and articles.
Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement is currently overseen by an eleven-member board of directors. All ten board members continued their terms in 2019 – 2020, and Elizabeth Fischer was added as a director and Vice President. In addition to their fiscal and organizational contributions, board members also initiate and coordinate programs. They coordinate the bulk of the programs, direct the program committees, and mentor new program committee members. Since these program committees are key to the success of CVLR, we have been expanding the number of members involved in them.
On May 16, 2020, Sharon R. Lowry, president of CVLR, died. During her seven years as secretary and ten years as president, she made great contributions to the development of the organization, leading it to become a corporation and a 501(C)(3) non-profit. This change allowed the organization to expand from 50 to 150 offerings per year and 240 to 889 members. We applaud her and salute all her efforts to create an organization that adds quality to its members’ lives.
Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement is a 501(c)(3) organization and is designated as exempt from sales tax by the State of Wisconsin.