Jerry Mandelberg already had quite a full life before
his retirement in 1987 from a 30-plus-year career at the
Social Security Administration. He had served as a Navy
corpsman in the South Pacific during World War II,
practiced general law for 10 years, owned a laundromat and
two bars, and found time to raise two children with his
Since his retirement, Mandelberg has traveled the
globe and devoted more time to photography, a beloved
hobby. With a bushel of memories to share, Mandelberg in
1992 was attracted to a memoir-writing class offered by the
Evergreen Society, a Johns Hopkins program designed for
retired and semi-retired people. It's a class he never
"It's the sort of thing I always wanted to do but
without this structure probably never would have gotten
around to," Mandelberg said of memoir writing. "There is a
lot to be said of handing down stories to your
grandchildren and the next generation."
For 20 years now, the Evergreen Society has offered
graduate-level courses for those like Mandelberg who want
to explore subjects without the commitment associated with
a degree or certificate program.
Evergreen was founded in 1986 by Stanley Gabor, then
dean of JHU's School of Continuing Studies (now the
School of Professional
Studies in Business and Education), who modeled it
after lifelong learning programs at UCLA and Duke. In its
first year, the Evergreen Society offered six courses at
Hopkins' Columbia Center and had 30 members (the program's
term for students). Its mission has always been "to enhance
the leisure time of semi-retired and retired individuals"
by providing a diverse array of stimulating learning
Today, the program offers nearly 80 courses at three
locations: the Grace United Methodist Church, located near
the Homewood campus; the Columbia Center; and the
Montgomery County Campus. This year, more than 600 people
will enroll in courses featuring such topics as
international relations, God, Ireland's heroes, Richard
Strauss and the great American songbook, which is taught by
Mandelberg. The fall 2006 session will also include the
Evergreen staples: Great Books, Memoir Writing and Eclectic
Primarily lecture-based, the program additionally
offers cultural field trips, such as an excursion to New
Orleans for a jazz class or to a local museum for an arts
course. Evergreen members also have access to the
university's library system and computer labs.
The 12-week classes meet once a week for two hours and
range in size from 12 to 200 members. To instruct its
courses, the Evergreen Society draws upon faculty from
Johns Hopkins and other area schools, in addition to
Baltimore/Washington area experts and retirees such as
Mandelberg, who has taught music and photography courses
for 11 years.
Program director Kathy Porsella, who has been with
Evergreen since its inception, said the participants come
initially for the great curriculum and because they want to
continue to learn. What keeps many of them coming back each
year, she said, is that they feel part of something.
"There is a real sense of community here," Porsella
said. "There is a lot of interaction, and our members are
intellectually stimulated by the classes and each other.
Often as you get older there are fewer opportunities for
interaction for a variety of reasons, so we provide them
with that opportunity."
Mandelberg said that what keeps him coming back, both
to teach and to learn, is the caliber of people.
"We have a lot of bright folks here, and many of us
share the same interests," he said. "They might have gray
on top, but there is still very much something inside."
For more information, including fees for courses, or
to register, go to
evergreen.jhu.edu or call 410-309-9535.