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Dear ILR Community,

While reflecting on this very strange year, and specifically about ILR, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude. Amid the many losses caused by the pandemic, so many of you stepped outside your comfort zone and helped us break new ground.  

In March, as the newly-appointed Chair of the ILR Board of Directors, my first order of business seemed surreal as I called for the cancellation of our spring term. We had to face the fact that we are among the most vulnerable demographic for the virus. For me, this was difficult because I have come to know so many of you as robust, enthusiastic learners, eager to be out in the community and enjoying life. 

Fall brought us our first-ever virtual semester. The amount of work that went into our fall term has been recounted elsewhere. Suffice it to say, it was an incredible effort on behalf of the entire team. Again, I am grateful that so many were able to take advantage of this learning experience, getting to “see” our friends, learn new things, and think about issues in a new light. It was different, but very interesting and rewarding as well. 

At our November board meeting, as decision deadlines regarding the spring 2021 term were imminent, the Board decided we should remain remote. The uncertainties of the pandemic and distribution/efficacy of the vaccine require that we err on the side of caution. If you didn’t take part this past fall, I encourage you to give remote learning a try this coming spring. Obviously, it is not the same as getting out and interacting with your friends, but it provides a solid alternative while remaining safe. From a personal standpoint, my father and I will be teaching two courses: an evolution class, and a climate change class with Mark Boardman. We will be taking classes as well. 

While the downside of the pandemic is evident all around us, for ILR it has been the stress on our finances. As a self-supporting, nonprofit organization, our registration fees are our main source of revenue. Thanks are due to our spring registrants who chose to donate their fees upon learning the semester was canceled. Nevertheless, ILR lost 75% of its typical spring income. In the fall, virtual semester enrollment—although robust according to the national average of similar lifelong learning institutes—was down 44% compared to our normal fall term. Knowing that next spring will likely result in a similar loss, we’re faced with large revenue deficits for three consecutive semesters. So, we need your help.
Donations are the only way we can help negate this budget shortfall. As you contemplate your year-end charitable contributions on this Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving to support nonprofits, I hope you will consider supporting ILR. Ways to donate—online, by mail, etc.—are found in the link below.

The Board of Directors and I wish you all a very healthy and happy holiday season, strange as it will no doubt be, and we hope to see you online for our spring term.

With gratitude,

Ben Mattox
Chair, ILR Board of Directors
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Mark your calendar and plan to join us this spring, March 29 through April 30!

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