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Professor Jill Grigsby Honored With Claremont Award for Volunteer Work With Senior Citizens, Including the 5C Auditing Program

Jill Grigsby

Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean of the College Jill Grigsby was recently honored by the city of Claremont's Committee on Aging with an award for her work with local senior citizens. The Muriel Farritor Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to Claremont seniors over the course of 10 or more years. 

Most notably, Grigsby helped to create Claremont Avenues for Lifelong Learning, which allows members of the community to audit classes at the Claremont Colleges.  About 10 years ago, Grigsby was approached by the CoA about auditing opportunities. “At that time, individuals who knew faculty members personally were able to audit classes unofficially, and alumni at each of the colleges had various auditing privileges,” recalls Grigsby. “It was clear that auditing depended primarily on ‘connections,’ and we wanted to see if the Colleges would be open to making access more equitable.”

Grigsby worked with then Dean of the College Gary Kates and Registrar Margaret Adorno to create a plan to facilitate how auditors could sign up for classes. The program began with Pomona College and gradually extended to the other undergraduate colleges.

The basic organization scheme still exists: Each semester, Grigsby asks Pomona faculty iwith “empty seats” in classes whether they will allow members of the community 60 or older to audit their classes. She then compiles a list for the Claremont Senior Center.

“It has become such a popular program that on the opening day of registration, the Senior Center staff comes to work to find a line already forming outside their office,” says Grigsby. She notes that evidence of the program is mostly anecdotal at this point, but she hopes to begin a more systematic assessment of the effect it has had at Pomona College in her new job as associate dean of the College.

Grigsby, who has volunteered with Claremont seniors for nearly 20 years, has also assisted the CoA by doing demographic profiles of various areas of Claremont and helping the Committee interpret the results to come up with new programs. The Committee has also provided funding for student workers during the summer to carry out the data analysis and produce presentations.

“[Jill Grigsby] is a person who continues to inspire new ways to enrich the lives of our retired community. A recent program she initiated focused on our baby boomers,” says Robert E. Lee, who handles the CoA’s finances and in the past has been a chair and vice chair of the Committee. “This was a very timely program whose success impressed the nominating committee as evidence of a continuing effort to enhance an emerging ‘senior’ population”

The new program, After Work, offers events presented “after work” that would be of interest to adults who are still working or have recently retired. In 2011-12, presentations included an overview of “It Happened at Pomona” and “Dividing the Light,” Pomona’s James Turrell Skyspace, both presented by Pomona College Museum of Art Director Kathleen Howe; historical perspectives on car trips around Southern California; Medicare for newcomers; sustainability for home and garden; and local hiking.

Grigsby was previously honored by the CoA in 2005 with the Josephine Smith Service Award.  Her research interests include the effects of work and education on marriage in the United States, and age and ethnic residential segregation in California. Courses she teaches include Introduction to Sociology, American Families, Survey Research Methods, and Population Trends and Issues.  She has taught at Pomona since 1983.