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Learning through the ages

Members of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College, ages 45 to 92, study for the intellectual and social stimulation, not for new careers.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 26, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- At 74, many people are physically and mentally active mostly for health and recreation reasons. Few are actively pursuing college studies.

Bob I. Siver, who will be 75 on July 13, still is hitting the books and helps younger students to do well in their studies. Siver, the outgoing president of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College, continues to study even though he does not seek academic credentials for another career.

"I became involved in ASPEC about 10 years ago," Siver said. "The intellectual aspects of the environment and activity of the organization was the thing that really got me. With approval of each class professor, we study right along with the young students. Among other things, we are able to add our years of experience to the class discussions."

About 360 retired, semi-retired and fully employed men and women from 45 and 92 are members of ASPEC. An elected 12-member senate develops policy and oversees the activities of the organization.

People selected for membership in ASPEC must present resumes and references showing professional, business or community experience that has helped make a positive difference in their communities, state or nation, Siver said.

"Some people have actually moved to the St. Petersburg area to participate in the program," he said. "ASPEC is actually a department of Eckerd College. We work out of Lewis House on the Eckerd campus, which is a fully equipped education building, 7,000 square feet in size."

Members of ASPEC come from numerous backgrounds including medicine, law, business, arts, government, academics, diplomacy, science, engineering, psychology, religion, administration, journalism and writing. Once professors have given their approval, the ASPEC members take classes with degree-seeking students and are called faculty colleagues.

Before moving to St. Petersburg in 1976 and starting a new business, Siver was a chief executive with a large corporation specializing in photo processing and distribution. That industry no longer exists in the same form, he said.

On his own, he began to study the medical insurance business and the offerings made by numerous companies. He helped some people to understand their policies and the multiple variable coverages.

During an 18-month period before starting a new business of health care consulting, he studied to successfully pass all the examinations to become a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and a Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU). He earned those credentials and passed all Florida insurance license exams while working full time.

"In order to be recognized as as professional in advising large corporations on the best type of group health care for their particular needs, I had to have credentials," he said. "Since I was paid by the corporation purchasing the plans, I was not influenced by the insurance companies. With all the complexities in health care today, we were needed."

ASPEC is one of three super Institutes for Learning in Retirement in the United States; the others are at Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles. Academia and community service have been a part of Siver's lifestyle for many years, so he found ASPEC's objective of helping students in the classroom attractive.

In addition to his professional CLU and CPCU association activities, he has been president and board member of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic Inc.; vice chairman and board member of Healthy Kids of Pinellas County; senior warden at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church; and he has been active in other community service organizations.

"I earned honors in science and economics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1951, but until ASPEC I had little exposure to liberal arts," Siver said. "It is exciting and refreshing to study with the young students at Eckerd College."

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