Who We Are

Learn for a Lifetime

The HILR is a vibrant community of retired and semi-retired academics and professionals participating in an academic program of non-credit, peer-led study at Harvard University.

The Insititute was founded in 1977 as a branch of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education.  Its curriculum reflects the University’s strong tradition of liberal arts and sciences and offers members the chance to explore subjects neglected during the course of demanding careers.

An Engaged Membership

The membership includes approximately 550 former academics, business leaders, and professionals from fields such as law, medicine, psychiatry, engineering, architecture, technology, and the arts. Four out of five members have advanced or professional degrees and all nurture a lively interest in the world of ideas. Members themselves lead classes and organize extracurricular activities such as plays, musicals, concerts, poetry readings, and writing groups. Their ages range from 55 to 95.

Where we are

The Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement is located at 34 Concord Ave., in a large building housing ten classrooms and expansive common areas.

Peer Learning and Teaching

The cornerstones of HILR are peer learning and active participation in study groups. Members create the curriculum and lead their courses, usually in a seminar format, with an emphasis on preparation and discussion in classes.

Study Group Leaders frequently lead courses that reflect their career experiences; others follow their passions or avocations. For example, a retired judge might offer a course on politics and power in the Supreme Court. Just as likely, however, a former bank president will lead a music appreciation class, a civil engineer a course in Plato or Sophocles, or a high tech CEO a course on cognitive linguistics. Class members are expected to complete assigned readings and be prepared to join a two-hour discussion each week.

In addition, courses at Harvard Extension School and Harvard Summer School are available to members at a reduced cost.

Extracurricular Activities

HILR sponsors an afternoon lecture series, a Friday morning speaker series on politics and culture, and a Friday afternoon Economic Forum. These series draw on public intellectuals and distinguished faculty from Harvard and other Boston area universities.

Members serve on committees; join reading and writing groups; produce musicals, Shakespeare plays, and concerts; and meet for outings. They discover new friendships, finding that sociability significantly enhances the life of the classroom, and vice versa.

As part of the wider Harvard community, HILR members are welcome at public lectures at the Kennedy School of Government, The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.