BROADVIEW BACKSTORY: Lee Schlesinger
Coming to Purchase, Again
Lee Schlesinger has been teaching at Purchase College for 46 years. In 2021, he became a charter member of Broadview, the University-Based Retirement Community currently under construction right here on campus.
That after so many years here, he jumped at the opportunity to stay tells you something of his sense of, and feeling towards, Purchase College. “This is an extraordinary place and a place that keeps expanding the parameters of what it means to be extraordinary. This is a college community that is ever-evolving and changing. It is imaginative. It examines itself and asks tough questions. It takes risks in all sorts of interesting ways.”
It is clear to him that although Broadview is not yet open (scheduled for Summer 2023), it nevertheless represents a community of engaged, vibrant older adults who value these same qualities.
Lee and his wife Wendy were drawn to Broadview for two key reasons. The first is practical but important. This is a community of primarily retired older people, and the promise of safety is not inconsequential.
Broadview was conceived, designed, and executed with the elder community specifically in mind. The idea of a senior learning community was hatched by Purchase College in the early 2000s, expanding upon the college’s senior auditor program—the biggest in the State University system. (In addition to enhancing the quality of life and learning for all, Broadview will be an important economic engine, generating funds to support student scholarships and the Purchase faculty.)
The second reason they were drawn to Broadview is that the concept of university-based retirement communities inherently attracts a group of people who are committed to continuing, or returning to, their education. “There is a certain kind of boldness involved in continuing one’s education. Education is a risky business. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘When you let a thinker loose on the world, everything is at risk.’ And in my view, that is the purpose of education.”
Indeed, Purchase College urges everyone to Think Wide Open, which is precisely what Broadview is all about and named after.
College for Life
With his students, Lee always stressed the importance of conversation in education. “The job of the classroom is to say, ‘…and, what about this?’ I look forward to a long life where I can extend this principle and talk to people about things that matter to me and also matter to them. Here, we will be put in the presence of an intergenerational cohort of people who are passionate about education, about talking to each other, and about learning from people and places that are unexpected and challenging.”
“I have always maintained it was amazing that 18-to-22-year-olds got dedicated time in their lives to fully devote their energies to their education but wished there were similar opportunities for other populations throughout life.” And now with Broadview, there is.
“In many ways, I am filling two roles: as welcomer and as welcomee. I have been at Purchase for most of my working life and feel a sense of responsibility to welcome newcomers as I was welcomed so many years ago. But in another real sense, as a Broadview charter member, I am being welcomed again to this community with fresh eyes and new perspectives.”
It is very moving to Lee that he can continue his relationship with the school that has been such a critical part of his life for so long and let it naturally grow and mold into this new form. And he intends to continue loving being at Purchase.
“I came to this campus in 1975 with no real intention to make this my forever home. And now with Broadview, I’m afforded the ability to still participate in, contribute to, and learn from this remarkable community that is constantly learning, challenging itself, and evolving. As I come, again, to Purchase College in this new way, I truly will be here forever.”
Lee Schlesinger is an Associate Professor of Literature, Emeritus at Purchase College, and a charter member of the Broadview Senior Living community.