Acadia Senior College

Mission Statement

Acadia Senior College is an educational organization providing intellectual stimulation, practical knowledge, social interaction and fun primarily for adults over 50.

Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary in Our 21st Year!

2020 was Acadia Senior College's 20th anniversary. Because of the pandemic we delayed our celebrations, but we held a gala celebration at Camp Beech Cliff on September 8, 2021. Read all about it here.

As part of our anniversary celebrations, Acadia Senior College and the 130th Maine State Legislature honored our founder by proclaiming June 9, 2021 Jim Clunan Day! Read the proclamation and the article in the Mount Desert Islander.

Below are some articles and photos related to the founding and history of Acadia Senior College.

Senior College Eyed for MDI, DownEast by Nancy Richards - published in the Bar Harbor Times on February 10, 2000.

A Brief History of ASC by Bill Dohmen - chronicles the founding of the college, the early years, and the growth and developments over the years.

The Freedom to Learn by Misty Edgecomb, published in the Bangor Daily News on February 20, 2001 - describes how Jim Clunan and a group of other like-minded individuals conceived of and founded our beloved college.


Acadia Senior College Organizational Meeting
Above - Organizational Meeting at College of the Atlantic, 2000


The organization of Acadia Senior College is a fairly simple one. Policy oversight is provided by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors establishes the guiding principles and the operational regulations, manages finances and financial policies, and develops goals and a long range plan to achieve those goals for the College.

A part-time Administrator, along with many committed volunteers, attend to the important details involved in providing high quality assistance to ASC members, collaborating with other non-profits in the Mount Desert Island area, and developing awareness of and support for the College.

A Curriculum Committee, working under guidelines provided by the Board of Directors, develops the course offerings for each session and oversees all the tasks necessary for each course. These tasks include soliciting, receiving, and approving course proposals, selecting instruction sites, providing instructional materials, and evaluating courses.

With the exception of our part-time Office Administrator, and a part-time Bookkeeper, all ASC personnel, including instructors, are volunteers.


Acadia Senior College began as a community project to provide "intellectual stimulation, practical knowledge, social interaction and fun" for older persons in the Mount Desert Island Region. After exploratory work in the fall of 1999, the idea of starting a senior college was presented in two well-attended public meetings held at the Somesville Fire House in February of 2000. More than 100 residents of Mount Desert Island and mainland towns, enthusiastically participated. The response exhibited the wide range of talent in the area, and that these people were willing and anxious to share their knowledge, skills, and experience.

In the spring of 2000, ASC was formally organized under the sponsorship of the University College Ellsworth, which gave ASC crucial professional services (registrar, financial accounting, mentoring, and an office) in exchange for a percentage of revenues. During this period initial funds for an eventual endowment were raised from the community, a start-up grant was awarded by the Maine Community Foundation, and a group of volunteers created a curriculum of courses, lectures, and excursions for a "pilot" semester in the fall.

Favorable publicity, including a front page story "above the fold" in the Bangor Daily News, attracted additional faculty and students so that by the end of the first fiscal year in June 2001, there were 282 enrollments in the 27 courses offered during the three sessions—fall, winter and spring. Also, two lecture series and several excursions were held as experiments. ASC enjoyed these immediate fiscal and programming successes because teaching and administration were almost entirely carried out by volunteers, fees were adequate, and space for classes was provided gratis by nine local non-profit organizations, known as the ASC "site partners." In subsequent years, non-profit site partners have received a modest annual cash gift from ASC.

Achievements & Challenges

The achievements of a growing operating surplus, a modest flow of donations, and a steady level of programs continued for three more years. By June of 2004, the endowment was nearing $10,000, and membership grew to more than 250 from the initial 110 who had joined in 2000. Also in these four years, ASC had offered 99 courses with an enrollment of 1,377 students. Recognition of ASC's success came from the United Way of Eastern Maine and WLBZ in their "2 Those Who Care" community service award, which ASC President, James Clunan, received in October 2004.

However, the demands of recruitment, labor-intensive attention to members' needs, and the necessity of frequent travel to Ellsworth were eroding the founders' stamina and volunteer availability. The logistically complex excursions program was suspended; lectures and special events were reduced in number so that effort could be focused on fewer high quality events, e.g., the "Fog of War" film discussion, the collaboration with the Camden Conference, and the foreign policy address by Zbigniew Brzezinski in 2004.

Energy in the 2004 - 2005 fiscal year went into expanding the faculty in order to sustain a program of 36 courses per year, relocating the ASC headquarters to the campus of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, establishing ASC as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and hiring a professional office administrator. For the latter purpose, the Board of Directors launched an annual appeal, which in its first year brought in an amount sufficient to fund the yearly salary and benefits of one part-time individual.

In 2012 our office moved to the second floor of the Maine Sea Coast Mission building (La Rochelle) in Bar Harbor. A part-time bookkeeper was hired to help manage finances in 2014. In 2015 we launched an annual summer collabortive lecture series with College of the Atlantic. ASC and COA have drawn on the resources of MDI residents, summer residents and visitors to fill the week's schedule with knowledgable speakers on diverse subjects of interest. Key note speakers have been Senator George Mitchell (2015), and singer - songwriter, Noel Paul Stookey (2016), Lucas St. Clair (2017), and Harvard University Political Economy Professor David Ellwood (2018). 

In 2018, our long time Office Administrator, Jude Lamb, retired and Janice Kenyon took over the administrative duties. At the same time we moved out of La Rochelle and now operate from our "virtual" office in Southwest Harbor.