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Bucket List: Eckerd College stresses lifelong learning early in retirement

Choices made during the first six months of retirement typically dictate habits during the rest of retirement, says Kelly Kirschner, Eckerd College’s vice president of executive and continuing education.

“The analogy I would use is cigarette smoking or reading a newspaper when you’re a teenager,” Kirschner says. “If you don’t hook them early, they won’t do it when they’re older.”

Recently retired people, he says, “fill their buckets quickly” — golf, bridge, travel, for example. Kirschner’s job is to get them involved — early — in learning programs.

Eckerd has two — the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which has 1,700 members, mostly from Pinellas County, who pay $59 for the right to enroll in a variety of classes; and the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC), with 300 members who each pay annual dues of about $1,000 to interact with Eckerd faculty, students and experts in various fields, from economics and foreign affairs to artificial intelligence and the human brain.

“Intellectual stimulation is the core,” says Ken Wolfe, ASPEC’s director. “Social interaction is the second thing that starts to happen. You start to know people. You like them. There’s a sense of community — like at a good college — where a lot of the good education takes place outside of the classroom.”

Minnesota native Gene Skluzacek, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years before becoming a college physics professor, joined ASPEC 10 years ago and appreciates lifelong learning’s ability to spur individual growth.

“I’ve had so many, many wonderful experiences here,” Skluzacek says. “I can't believe how set in my ways I used to be.”

Brain Benefits

According to an Australian study published by the American Psychological Association, older adults who enroll in college-level classes may increase their cognitive capacity. The study, called the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project, tested the cognitive capacity of 359 participants between ages 50 and 79 before and after they enrolled in a year of classes. More than 90% boosted their cognitive abilities, compared to 56% among a 100-member control group that didn’t take college courses.

More business news items for Southwest Florida:


DUNEDIN — The Fenway Hotel is projected to open this fall downtown. The hotel will have 83 rooms.

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The 128- room Even Hotel Sarasota, owned by the InterContinental Hotels Group, has opened just off I-75.

LONGBOAT KEY — The historic Rufus P. Jordan House has been deemed unsafe and uninhabitable by a structural engineer. Ed Chiles, the building’s owner, has offered to donate the building to the Longboat Key Historical Society. The building is one of a dozen in the area that survived a devastating hurricane in 1921.

LUTZ — Pasco County commissioners agreed to give an Atlanta company a $6-million loan to build a $37-million office complex near the Suncoast Parkway. The loan will be financed by Penny for Pasco sales tax revenue. The complex will include two 75,000-sq.-ft. office buildings. The county estimates the office buildings will eventually result in 400 jobs.

NAPLES — Construction is underway on the Collective, a 154,917-sq.-ft. mixed-use complex.

OLDSMAR — Nielsen is cutting 328 jobs, mostly research interviewers, at its Pinellas County office. Nielsen has begun to measure TV viewership by using electronic tracking devices rather than paper diaries.

PINELLAS COUNTY — The sheriff’s office has begun hiring deputies to abide by the state mandate that an armed guard be assigned to each public school by next summer. Pinellas County has more than 140 public schools.

PINELLAS PARK — The Shoppes at Park Place, a 42-acre open-air shopping center is for sale. The owners are facing a $73-million foreclosure suit.


  • Due to open this summer, Lucky’s Market food store in the Tyrone neighborhood will employ 150.
  • After efforts to move it failed, an historic 1905 Victorian-style house, once home to one of the city’s first African- American leaders, was torn down to make way for an eight-unit housing complex.
  • The value of new construction in St. Petersburg totaled a record $671 million in 2017.
  • An anonymous $2.5-million donation will allow Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to boost services to newborns exposed to drugs during pregnancy.


  • HomeBancorp, based in Tampa, has merged with North Carolina-based First Citizens Bank & Trust. Entertainmentfocused weekly newspaper Creative Loafing Tampa has a new owner, Euclid Media Group of Ohio.
  • Jeff Vinik, who owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and is working to redevelop downtown Tampa, has invested $12 million in Dreamit, an early-stage startup accelerator.
  • Ironman, which oversees more than 250 endurance-sports events in 53 countries, is adding 70 jobs at its Tampa headquarters, where it already employs 160.

TAMPA BAY — The University of South Florida system has created a task force to study how to consolidate USF-Tampa, USFSt. Petersburg and USF-Sarasota-Manatee.

INNOVATION: Back to School

With the unemployment rate in Lee and Collier counties at about 3.5%, Fort Myers- based Crystal Clean cleaning service — growing at between 20% and 25% a year — has come up with some new ideas to attract employees.

Most of its 90 workers speak Spanish primarily so the company now offers free Englishlanguage classes, taught by a 15-year veteran teacher. The classes started in January. CEO Dave Harting says he is happy with the response so far. Besides helping recruit employees, he says the classes are helping existing employees communicate better with clients.

“Our team members feel empowered when we remove the language barrier,” he says.


  • Justin Day will head Capital City Consulting’s Tampa office. Previously, he managed the Tampa office of the Advocacy Group, a lobbying firm.
  • JLL, a real estate brokerage, named Paul Rutledge its Tampa senior vice president. Rutledge previously worked for CBRE. He replaces Andy Carlson, who will focus on Puerto Rico’s retail and real estate market.


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