100 Happy Valentines; Lifelong learner gets WISE.


Byline: Brian Lee

WORCESTER - Longtime learner Estee Lieberman turns 100 years old today, on Valentine's Day.

First check Ms. Lieberman's identification. The retired gym teacher has a youthful sense of humor, energy and attentiveness.

"I can't believe it," Mrs. Lieberman told her 82-year-old friend, Madeline S. Levine. "I've never been 100 before. Have you?"

Ms. Lieberman is a longtime member of the Worcester Institute for Senior Education at Assumption College. Until recently she was attending classes, according to Charlene L. Martin, former dean of continuing education at the college, who founded the institute 16 years ago.

WISE is a lifelong learning institute with more than 450 members taking noncredit courses that members plan, develop, teach or recruit experts to teach. Members are mostly in their 60s, 70s and 80s, while some, like Ms. Leiberman, take classes in their 90s.

Ms. Lieberman, who lives independently, is the first member of the program to reach 100, according to institute officials.

She said Assumption is "a delightful place. I never got over their generosity."

Ms. Lieberman said she couldn't name a favorite class. "I just went."

She said she enjoyed listening to lectures by Richard Schmitt, a retired Brown University philosophy professor who teaches at WISE and lives in Worcester. Mr. Schmitt said he was born in Germany, is Jewish and lost a lot of people in the concentration camps.

Ms. Levine said she was impressed with Ms. Lieberman long before they enrolled in the same seminar at WISE.

Several years ago, when Ms. Levine was a social worker at the Jewish Home, she took note of Ms. Lieberman's loyalty to a prominent local woman who had Alzheimer's disease.

"She used to come with a group of her friends who were absolutely devoted," Ms. Levine said. "Every month they visited me to make sure (the friend) had everything she needed. And they went out and got things for her. They were surrogate mother, father, parent, friend, everything to this woman."

Wearing tan loafers and khakis, and a turquoise top with matching jewelry, the mother of two, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of 11 discussed a range of topics on her active mind during a recent interview.

How did the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver get both feet in bounds as he made the Super Bowl clinching touchdown catch? she asked.

"They won by the skin of their teeth," she said...

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