Johnson Shares Fascinating Courses through SSILL

With the new fall program book in hand, Stony Creek resident Joan Johnson is spreading the news to her neighbors about non-profit Schiller Shoreline Institute for Lifelong Learning (SSILL), which was initiated by the Madison and Guilford foundations and offers area adults exceptional programming on fascinating topics, presented by experts who volunteer their time.

From discussing TED talks to talking opera, exploring Egyptology to joining the proprietor of the Griswold Inn for an unforgettable inn art tour and luncheon, to feeding many other interests for mind, body, and spirit, there's no shortage of fascinating things to do, see, and learn this fall with the Schiller Shoreline Institute for Lifelong Learning (SSILL).

SSILL's concept of offering meaningful, intellectual programs to area adults was not lost on Joan Johnson, who took her first SSILL course in 2010 and signed on as a volunteer soon after. Non-profit, all-volunteer SSILL is part of the Road Scholar Network Affiliate. Initiated by the Guilford and Madison foundations, SSILL is sponsored by Guilford Parks & Recreation and Seniors and Madison Senior Services.

As a member of the multi-talented SSILL Advisory Board, Joan helped launch SSILL's 2014 fall course catalogue this week and is excited about the more than 30 offerings of courses, events, tours, and even movie nights coming up.

"We have all sorts of programs for the curious mind and we're always adding something new; like this time we're adding even more classes with an intellectual bent," says Joan. "We're doing TED talks four times a month-some of our board members are going to show a TED talk and be the facilitator. Another new course is "Great Decisions"-the Foreign Policy Association picks [the] topics, and you have a facilitator and you discuss it."

SSILL programs meet in Guilford and Madison, but are open to all shoreline residents. As a Stony Creek native (she's a member of the Paine family and, as a teen, worked at the former Paine's General Store established by her grandfather), Joan makes a point of spreading the word about SSILL to her Stony Creek, Branford, and North Branford friends and neighbors, because there is really nothing else like it around.

Offered during two semesters annually (September through December and February through June), all programming is available to residents who become SSILL members. The 2014-'15 annual membership is $35 for a single person and $45 per couple. All are welcome at the first program, an open house on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 9 a.m. at Guilford Community Center, at which board members will answer any questions. Members can register for programs by mail or in person at the Guilford Community Center or Madison Senior Center, at which most programs are also held.

Just a small sampling of fall SSILL programming includes experts talking on Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, the blood-type diet, past lives, hobbies in retirement, locating entertaining apps on tech devices, and decorating with seasonal greenery. Courses will cover sharing an eyewitness view of the Soviet Union and World War II, the preservation of Guilford's Faulkner's Island and its landmark lighthouse, a book discussion on the Poisonwood Bible, a movie series with 12 films, and much, much more. In addition, expert-guided tours including those of the New Britain Industrial Museum and Yale Center for British Art are in the mix. Some programs, such as the Griswold Inn art tour and luncheon presented by inn owner Geoffrey Paul, or the traditional Thai Buddhist wedding, which includes an appetizer "reception," have additional fees due to costs such as those to cover travel, food, and entertainment.

All of the programs are well worth any nominal fee that may be added to the very reasonable membership cost, as Joan points out.

"I usually sign up for every single one," Joan says. "We're there sometimes four times a week, with 50 or 60 people showing up! I say to people that one of these events is like what other organizations put on twice a year, and we're doing it four times a week, plus twice a month is the Spirituality Group, and then we have the movie series that's played every Thursday in Guilford and in Madison every Friday."

Like the dedicated members of the SSILL advisory board, all of the experts leading SSILL courses and programs are volunteering their time. Many return each year, having become popular with the SSILL membership, which currently includes more than 300 shoreline adults.

"We have quite a few who come back," says Joan. "Charles Fischer is a retired Madison history professor everyone loves. This time he's doing a talk on the Civil War…[and] Carol Rizzolo is a mythologist who is amazing-she has her cult following. She leads six classes and she gets 50 people every time."

Rizzolo presents "Exploring the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Netherworld: The Amduat" as her fall SSILL course.

Of course, SSILL welcomes new experts, as well.

"We're very excited to have Richard Diana speaking in November," says Joan of the former NFL player and Yale alumnus.

Dr. Diana is an orthopedic surgeon and author of recently the released book Healthy Joints for Life, from which he will share with SSILL members a discussion of his protocols for pain and inflammation reduction and non-surgical approaches to joint pain. The former Miami Dolphin played in Super Bowl XVII before retiring from the NFL to attend Yale School of Medicine and has been named one of the top doctors in America every year since 2006.

SSILL's first class of the fall, which doubles as the Open House event, features another engaging speaker, Tom Lewy, Joan notes. A professional opera performer and music industry insider, Lewy will present "My Life in Music" on Tuesday, Sept. 9 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Guilford Community Center.

"It's the first class, but we're also having our open house with refreshments," Joan notes. "Tom Lewy, who has done a lot of opera and Broadway presentations for us, has had a fascinating career and he's going to talk about it. He's even done work with the Beatles and Zubin Mehta."

All SSILL course information is now available online at In print, look for the bright red fall course catalogues at SSILL learning centers at the Guilford Community Center and Madison Senior Center. Membership registration and course selection can be done in person at either location or by mail using the SSILL registration form.

After that, all that's left to do is come to every program that captures your interest and enjoy, says Joan.

"There's no homework," she says, smiling. "You just go and relax and enjoy yourself and take away from it whatever inspires you."

For more information about the Schiller Shoreline Institute for Lifelong Learning, visit or call 203-453-8086 or 203-245-5627.


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