Bruce Broadbent to host Beach University for likely the final time
By John Morton
As a retired professor of 36 years in the Penn State University system, Bruce Broadbent was accustomed to looking for learning situations. After all, he was a division head overseeing more than 100 faculty members while teaching health science and kinesiology — the study of human movement.
So, when he retired to Sarasota with his wife, Joyce, in 2004, they signed up as beach ambassador volunteers for Siesta Beach, he quickly felt there could be more to his role of greeting folks and handing out literature to the hoard of visitors.
“I felt an educational component could be added to the program,” Broadbent said. “As an educator, I guess you never stop teaching.”
After a brainstorming session with other ambassadors and Sarasota County personnel, a planning committee was established. Next thing he knew, Broadbent not only had his Beach University idea come to life in 2006 under the Siesta pavilion, but he was its host.
“I make opening comments, introducing the guest speaker, and at the end I conduct a Q&A session,” he said, noting that other ambassadors help with the class.
And, in the tradition of a true educator, he holds the classroom accountable for what was presented.
“There’s a prize for the attendees who answer a question correctly — a Beach University pen,” Broadbent said with a chuckle.
The program would grow, often seeing as many as 100 at a session, and the popularity even spawned the sale of Beach University T-shirts.
The program even became popular among those with expertise in the areas of beach-related environments and habitats — the focus of the weekly series that runs 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. each Thursday in March. It is free.
“We have always been able to get great presenters. And they all do it as a volunteer, unpaid,” Broadbent said. “We’ve been blessed.”
To be certain that the program has been effective and relevant, those in attendance complete evaluations that grade both the presenter and the topic.
“We crunch the numbers and send them to the (program) coordinator,” Broadbent said. “As a result — and we are always looking for variety — we do find some speakers and subjects that are in demand and come back as repeat presenters, sometimes year after year. I call them our ‘keepers.’”
After 16 years with Beach U, the 78-year-old Broadbent thinks it’s probably time for one last hurrah this year.
“I’m not certain, but I think it’s probably time to pass the gavel,” he said. “Either way, I’ve been very proud of this program.”
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