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Dartmouth College ILEAD Awarded $100,000 Grant

Hanover — A six-figure grant awarded to Dartmouth College’s lifelong learning institute is expected to help with an anticipated uptick in enrollment.

More than 1,500 are enrolled in classes through the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth, known by many as ILEAD, according to the program’s president, Peter Bleyler. That’s a number he expects to increase by at least 3 percent in the next term.

“If you read the statistics about what they expect for the number of people over 65 in New Hampshire for the next few years, it’s almost astronomical,” said Bleyler.

That makes for good timing for a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, a national network of lifelong learning institutes based out of San Francisco.

Bleyler said aside from the monetary benefits of the grant, ILEAD will also gain from periodic conferences with other institutes in the region, including those at the University of Vermont and Granite State College.

The foundation is “pretty flexible with how you can use the funds, but you can’t use the money for bricks and mortar,” Bleyler said.

ILEAD’s staff offices are located next to Occom Pond in the Dartmouth Outing Club house, which has two classrooms. The program also rents space at the Richard W. Black Recreation and Senior Center, the Wilder Center and Lebanon College and also uses space free of charge at Kendal at Hanover and other retirement communities.

Bleyler is considering using some of the funding for an online membership and course registration system, which is already in the works. Grant money could also go toward renting additional classroom space, expanded marketing and recruitment efforts, and outreach to speakers for the program’s summer lecture series.

Bleyler said that about 70 courses were offered last fall, the program’s busiest term. Between 40 and 45 courses are being offered this winter, and closer to 50 are planned for the spring, then there’s the summer lecture series.

David Blazevich, a program officer at the Osher Foundation, said that aside from a lifelong learning institute’s educational value, another important benefit was engaging retirees with their community and forming new friendships.

“That’s what we find to be the real value of the programs,” he said.

The foundation, which supports 117 lifelong learning programs across the country, is “not looking to expand its grant program to new grantees in any significant way,” said Blazevich — but Dartmouth’s ILEAD program had been on the radar since 2001.

“The timing seemed right to bring them on board,” he said.

Bleyler said that the Upper Valley has many institutions that attract retirees — notably Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Hopkins Center — but ILEAD has a “draw,” too.

“I think it’s a very added plus for the people retiring here,” he said.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213