Senior years

By EVA WOLCHOVER  |  August 15, 2007

Then she found out about the Harvard Institute of Learning in Retirement, and has been there for more than 20 years — learning, teaching, and directing Shakespeare.

"I think that's a good story for older people," she says. "I found a field quite different from the one I worked in, but it many ways it was, you know, similar. A social worker learns to understand character and human behavior, and I found all that in Shakespeare, too."

Addleson doesn't go to class as readily as she once did. With her deteriorating eye-sight, she can do assigned readings only with the aid of a machine. Instead, she attends lectures once or twice a month as an associate member, and leaves the direction of plays to one of her close friends and fellow actors, Bill Boone.

"I gave an excerpt from Hamlet at the last play, which was in May of this year, but that's the end," she says. "Bill [Boone] thought that if I could, then I should, so I did Hamlet's advice to the players. My acting career is over and pretty soon my total career will be over, too."

The Bill Boone she speaks of is 65, with a white Santa beard and a chuckle to match. A few years ago, he stumbled in on a rehearsal of The Winter's Tale, was given a part to read, and has been a member of the Frances Addleson Shakespeare Players ever since.

When Boone retired, in 1997, he had three graduate degrees from top universities, including Berkley and Harvard Business School, and had worked as a successful business consultant and an English professor. He'd had traveled the world, and spoke fluent French.

With retirement, he says, came the chance to start over, to add a new chapter to his already expansive list of career, or rather, intellectual pursuits. And there was something he'd neglected.

"All my life, because I didn't study physics, I didn't know how things worked, and I wanted to know, and so the first thing I said is, I will now study physics," says Boone, over a plate of fried calamari at Harvest in Harvard Square.

He started taking physics classes immediately. "It was my penance," he says. "But I laugh and say it's a good thing I didn't take physics in 1960 when I first went to college, because what I learned then would have been wrong based on what we now know."

In a few years, he'd completed all the introductory physics courses at the Harvard Extension School, which offers several basic programs in science and math.

"I've been in math courses there with high-school juniors, who behaved like high schoolers, with their hats on backwards," he says, laughing. "I was taking this advanced calculus course, and most of the students were high schoolers and the teacher would have to turn around and say, 'all right, settle down,' and at the same time there were three or four graybeards in there like me. It was all very amusing."

Then, about eight years ago, he began auditing advanced physics courses at Tufts University, and has since taken close to a dozen. "Tufts has a very good program," he says, "because I'm in as a regular student. I'm an auditor, but if I wanted to take the exams and so forth, I could, with all the undergraduates."

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