In September 1999, two Comox Valley community members, Betty Emery and Elizabeth Smith, learned of the concept of ElderCollege.
Inspired by the possibility of having a lifelong learning program here in the Comox Valley, the founders took their vision to North Island College (NIC). The then College President, Dr. Lou Dryden, immediately embraced the idea, agreeing to provide classroom accommodation and assistance with registration. According to the Comox Valley Record, the President knew something special was happening, when over 140 people from the community attended a planning meeting in the middle of the summer.
ElderCollege’s first course guide launched in the September 1999, offering a wide variety of courses and lectures spanning disciplines such as English Literature, Biology, Information Technology, and much more. Initially, ElderCollege programming was included in NIC’s Continuing Education course guide, but demand soon saw the organization develop its own program guide, or newsletter.
Indeed, beginning with its 100 enthusiastic community members and volunteers back in the late 1990s, CVEC has grown into one of the largest elder programs in North America – boasting over 1,100 members aged 55 or better. The program now offers 70 intellectually stimulating courses and lectures each semester scheduled during the mornings, afternoons, and early evenings – Monday thru Sunday. CVEC continues to operate out of NIC’s main Comox Valley campus, and is still a self-funded, volunteer-run College program, under NIC Continuing Education and Training.
ElderCollege making a difference in the community – for all ages
Beyond the innovative educational programming ElderCollege organizes each year for older adults across the Comox Valley, it is also a foundational partner in the success of the wider College – providing vital support to younger students pursuing their own learning goals.
Back in 2017, CVEC celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary by naming its two North Island College Foundation bursaries after the founders of the Comox Valley ElderCollege – these bursaries make it possible for needy students from across the region to attend College programs each year.
The Betty Emery Founders Bursary is a $1,510 annual award, available to a full-time North Island College student attending the Comox Valley campus. The recipient must be continuing their studies in a field that relates to working with older adults and they will have maintained a C+ average in their earlier studies. The recipient must also have a demonstrated financial need. Preference will be given to students who have an aptitude, and have shown competency while working in a practical setting with older adults.
The Elizabeth Smith Founders Bursary is a $1,510 annual award, available to a full-time North Island College student attending the Comox Valley campus. The recipient must be continuing their studies in a field that relates to working with older adults and they will have maintained a C+ average in their earlier studies. The recipient must also have a demonstrated financial need. Preference will be given to students who have an aptitude, and have shown competency while working in a practical setting with older adults
In addition to supporting these successful bursaries, ElderCollege Comox Valley also contributes to various capital improvements on campus, including age-friendly bannisters in the Stan Hagen Theatre. Other generous donations support NIC through surpluses after annual ElderCollege programming is completed.
ElderCollege celebrates two decades of success
On Friday, September 13, 2019, ElderCollege founding, former and current members, supporters, friends, and many others, gathered to celebrate two decades of successful ElderCollege programming. Fernanda Pare, from the K'ómoks First Nation, and Elder in Residence at North Island College began with a blessing of the event. Former ElderCollege Executive Chair Sandra Harrison emceed the festivities, with congratulatory speeches offered by the current Executive Chair, Michael Syer, NIC President, John Bowman, NIC Continuing Education Director, Lynne MacFadgen, and even an inspiration poem by ElderCollege course leader, Marvin Haave.
Supporters then moved into the theatre foyer where a beautiful plaque was unveiled in front of supporters.
Here’s a video capturing the excitement.
Here’s to another 20 years!