The Armchair Travel series has been popular over the years. Here, a photo of Gwyneth Kingham chatting with Syrian girls at Palmyra. (Submitted photo)

Cowichan Community Centre Elder College celebrates 20th anniversary

Volunteer instructors are the key to success.

Submitted by Judy Bader

“Elder College” is an international movement that promotes and provides lifelong learning opportunities for people 50 years or older. The Elder College Advisory Committee and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have collaborated for 20 years delivering programs serving Cowichan Valley residents.

In September 2000, Elder College was transferred from the then Malaspina College to the CVRD. With the guidance of the Advisory Committee, the CVRD has expanded and delivered innovative programming to Cowichan Valley communities. Venues have included classroom, studio, and outdoor settings. Programming has grown from 12 to more than 140 programs. Elder College membership now exceeds 600 annually.

The 20th anniversary celebration of this partnership is temporarily postponed due to COVID-19. Once larger gatherings are permitted again, past and present instructors, learners, advisory committee members, and the CVRD will be able to celebrate this event together. Please watch for this.

Volunteer instructors are the key to success. Their expertise varies widely from extensive experience to professional credentials. More than 100 volunteer instructors have shared their skills and knowledge. Some instructors have been with the college from the beginning as students, instructors and advisory board committee members.

Eric and Dorothy Marshall signed up for classes shortly after moving to the Valley. Their early classes included play-reading and storytelling, with Eric joining the advisory committee as secretary and serving in this position until 2018. As well, Eric taught classes focused on travel, photography, computer programs, and humpback whales. Dorothy and Eric continue to lead two popular walks — “Spring Flowers” and “Thetis Island Beach”. They still attend classes, especially enjoying “Armchair Travel” sessions.

Gwyneth Kingham, another longstanding instructor and current advisory committee co-chair, started as a Spanish language instructor in 2000 and joined the Advisory Committee shortly afterwards. She continues to teach classes which allow her to share her love of travel through “Armchair Travel” courses.

Eric, Dorothy and Kingham are examples of the cadre of talented and dedicated instructors who have served the community though Elder College.

Also key to its success has been the role of CVRD liaison Jennifer Carmichael who has provided excellent support to the Advisory Committee for the past 20 years. This unique relationship has allowed the committee to focus on assessing and identifying interests, developing programs and recruiting instructors. The CVRD has provided the facilities, registration process and overall administrative support.

This partnership continues to evolve to provide more and varied quality programs. Courses range in length from one to eight or more sessions delivered in a variety of formats. If a topic you are interested in is not currently on offer, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer instructor, the Advisory Committee wants to hear from you. Contact Jennifer Carmichael at: 250-748-7529 or

Fall courses are about to start. (All COVID-19 safety measures are in effect.) Please browse the selection of courses available at: – Cowichan Community Centre – Recreation Programs – Elder College or

Judy Bader is a member of the Elder College Advisory Committee.


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Eric and Dorothy Marshall have been longtime instructors and students with Elder College. (Submitted photo)

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