LLI Spotlight: Beverlee Koutny, Coordinator, Chemeketa Center for Learning in Retirement, Woodburn, Ore.

By Peter Spiers

Woodburn is a small town of approximately 25,000 in the Willamette Valley between Portland and Salem, Oregon, and is the home of a branch of Salem-based Chemeketa Community College. In the late 1990s a 55+ residential community—Woodburn Estates—was built in the town, and the college’s president was determined to draw these older residents into its learning community. Since many of the Estates residents were new to the area they expressed interest in learning more about the history of the Willamette Valley, and in the summer of 1999 the community college began offering day trips to local historical sites. As people participating in these trips forged bonds of friendship, they decided that classes would also be enjoyable and enriching, and Beverlee Koutny, a teacher by training, a native of the area, and a passionate local historian, became involved. With about 30 paid members each semester, the Chemeketa Center for Learning in Retirement is a small but vibrant organization, offering a handful of classes each semester and continuing with the summer field trips where the organization began 17 years ago. Members pay $35 a year, and summer trips are open to everyone.