Member Profiles: John and Lise Armstrong

This month, FCLIR introduces two of our most active members, Elizabeth (Lise) and John Armstrong. This intellectually active, curious, and vibrant couple have been valuable members and leaders of LIR for nearly three decades. When asked what they love about LIR, Lise said, “It’s the people, who are kind, engaged in life and ideas, and ever optimistic.”

Lise is one of four daughters and learned many crafts, including knitting and rug-making, from her mother. She and John met as students at Harvard and Radcliffe, where they shared common academic interests in science and math. John’s career centered on Applied Physics.

When Lise and John retired in 1995, they relocated from northern Westchester County in New York to Amherst. They moved to the Applewood community in 2015, where they currently live. Lise and John agree that Applewood is a terrific community and encourage anyone thinking about a future move to apply early.

Lise joined LIR almost immediately upon arrival in Amherst. John joined a few years later. Lise’s love of literature and social sciences led her to join LIR courses in these areas. Her first seminar was Emily Dickinson, and she returns to Dickinson’s poetry often, finding it “intriguing, if not inscrutable.” John enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of science and technology.

Lise said she has moderated “more LIR seminars than I care to remember”, with a focus upon literary topics. She also started a Classics Book group. She has served on the LIR Council and was Council Secretary when Naomi Yanis was President. Lise has chaired the Curriculum Committee twice and served several terms as a member. John has moderated seminars in science and technology, and along with others he led a Science Round Table interest group. Together, they have co-moderated classes on such diverse topics as inventions, astronomy, and modern archeology. Generally, they choose topics in their areas of interest, but sometimes use the moderator role as an opportunity to develop a strong knowledge base in new subjects.

Before COVID, John and Lise especially enjoyed in-person LIR meetings, traveling to all five college campuses and other venues, such as the Amherst Woman’s Club, the Hitchcock Center, and the Arcadia Sanctuary. They joined LIR trips to Maine and Gettysburg and participated locally at LIR social events. COVID created significant disruption for LIR in-person meetings and required the organization to adapt and move in new directions, such as moving to online courses using Zoom. While acknowledging that remote learning has expanded the reach of LIR to members who can now extend their years of participation, John and Lise believe that attending seminars remotely makes it more challenging to develop friendships. John said he thinks it would be a beneficial policy change to open the Zoom platform 15 minutes early to offer an opportunity for general conversation among members before the seminar begins.

John and Lise have moderated in-person LIR seminars and interest groups at Applewood to encourage new membership and expand opportunities for interpersonal contact. By locating some LIR seminars within senior communities and introducing the in-person meetings at the Pulse as part of the LIR Café Society, participation can become more convenient and offer additional opportunities for collaboration and socialization. Given the rise of the loneliness epidemic in the United States, identified by the CDC as a contributor to health problems among the aging population, John and Lise hope that LIR will expand in-person offerings to a growing number of members in conveniently located settings, and continue to serve the fastest growing demographic segment of our population, citizens in their 70’s and 80’s.

Joanne Locke