Emeritus celebrates 36th anniversary with high-tea and announcement of $2.2 million donation

(From left to right) Anne Marie Alley, Barbara Bauer, Carolyn Franzie, Norma Carlsen, Director of Saddleback Emeritus Sandra Marzilli, Saddleback Foundation President Donna Varner, Alice Marshall, Saddleback President Tod Burnett, and Lillian Michelson. (Courtesy of Emeritus Institute)

Jason Chung

The Emeritus Institute hosted a sell-out afternoon tea to celebrate its 36th anniversary and a $2.2 million donation from late student Dorothy Marie Lowry last month.

The posthumous endowment marked the single largest gift ever made to Saddleback College and will provide scholarships for Emeritus students as well as pay for class supplies.

“I was absolutely thrilled,” said Sandra Marzilli, director of Emeritus Institute. “This is a very generous donation and it could not have come at a better time because, with the state in a budget crisis and with us not knowing what is going to happen, this assures us that whatever does happen, the Emeritus Institute will continue.”

Lowry had been an Emeritus student since she moved to Casta del Sol, a senior community in Mission Viejo, in 1999 and had never missed a semester until she passed away in 2011. An educator herself, Lowry had always believed in the value of education. In her later years, she even became a strong advocate of lifelong learning.

“She felt the Emeritus program was extreme worthwhile to the seniors in our community,” Marzilli said. “She felt it was something that should be available for all older adults, so she wanted to make sure the program continued forever.”

According to Marzilli, Saddleback is one of the few community colleges in the state that is surrounded by complete older adult communities, including Laguna Woods Village, Palmia and Casta del Sol.

“The older adults feel a part of Saddleback and the students are like their own,” she said. “They want to see them do well and progress with their education.”

Marzilli said older members of the community are very aware of student needs and they are always willing to help.

“There is a very nice partnership between the Emeritus students and the on-campus students,” she said.

Held at the Norman P. Murrary Center, the event was attended by more than 400 students, faculty members and local community leaders. All entertainment was provided by Emeritus students and instructors, including a speech by 97-year-old student Lillian Michelson.

The Saddleback College Emeritus Institute was established in 1976 to provide lifelong learning opportunities for older adults. With more than 160 classes offered in over 30 disciplines, it is one of the fastest growing academic programs in the college. Classes are state-approved and available on a credit and non-credit basis.

Dorothy Marie Lowry donates $2.2 million to encourage lifelong learning (Courtesy of Emeritus Institute)

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