Quest attracts a diverse group of people with interests ranging from the fine arts to business and economics. Given the rich and varied backgrounds of our members, we are able to offer a curriculum including music, film, theater, history, politics, literature and science.

We also offer workshops in life drawing and in writing prose and poetry. Members enjoy the opportunity to share knowledge, develop new interests and build lasting relationships as part of a vibrant and caring community. We invite members to develop classes in any area of interest to them.

Ruth Ward

In 2013, I returned home to Brooklyn, my birthplace, after retiring from my career as a Spanish and French teacher in secondary schools in Nevada and California.

Once I joined Quest in 2016, it became the center of my life, and at Quest I wear many hats. I’ve given a variety of presentations and introduced and coordinated new courses, including “Dance Panorama,” “Modern Hispanic Playwrights,” and “Conversations en français.” I also chaired the Nominating and Elections Committee and, after serving as prose editor, I’m now Editor-in-Chief of the Q Review.

Quest is also an outlet for my passion for theatre. I have enjoyed acting with our drama troupes — in the 2017 production of Neil and Noel and the 2018 production of Spoon River. In 2019 I organized, directed and acted in Four One-Act Plays, and I’ve since written The Next Step for Quest, with a performance slated for March 2022.

To help facilitate our new hybrid program, I’m pleased to be a Co-Chair of the Technology team. But perhaps most importantly, I’m grateful to be the current President of the Quest Council. I try to be sensitive to what members appreciate or want to improve in our organization, working on issues such as making Quest more diverse and gender neutral, meeting the needs of our in-person and Zoom participants and creating new courses that will continue to energize our diverse community. Quest has been very rewarding to me, and I want to help shape its future.

Wayne Cotter

I first discovered Quest on the Internet in August 2012 when preparing for my retirement. I had worked for decades in Manhattan as a researcher and editor and was ready for new experiences. Quest seemed too good to be true. A group of people dedicated to learning from each other. I had no interest in a passive learning experience, such as auditing classes at a local university, so Quest seemed a great fit.

I didn’t know a soul in Quest when I joined that fall, but slowly began making friends, giving presentations, and getting involved in the inner workings of the organization. My interest in writing led me to Quest’s arts and literary journal, Q Review. I eventually served as its Editor-in-Chief for four years and continue to provide technical assistance. I also chaired Quest’s Technology Committee prior to our shut-down during the COVID pandemic. When Quest transitioned to Zoom presentations in 2020, I took a leading role in the conversion.

Quest faced a monumental challenge in September 2021 when we began simultaneously offering classes to members at home via Zoom and at our Broadway headquarters. In my view, no lifelong learning center has been as technically ambitious as Quest during the COVID crisis.

I am now proud to serve as Quest’s vice-president, while looking forward to peer learning in a post-COVID environment. Due in large part to Quest, my first ten years of retirement have been far more fulfilling than I ever dreamed possible.

Richard Byrd

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and my worldview is shaped by the events of the 1960s. I am a poet and short story writer, and my other strong interest is in music, jazz in particular. I attended various educational institutions in NYC and was also very active in the struggle for Africans and their descendants in the diaspora, fighting for positive self-assertion and self-determination.

I retired in 2015 after working 30 years as a technician at Verizon. In 2018 I joined Quest. My experience at Quest has been both challenging and stimulating. My poems and short stories have appeared in the Q Review. I am currently the lead coordinator for the Quest course, “The Role of Slavery in US Capitalist Development.” I am also a member of the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) committee at Quest. Our goal is to add more people of color to the Quest student body.

Beth Callender

I love living in New York — Central Park, the opera, fascinating lectures —always something to see and learn. So, when a friend told me about Quest, it seemed a great way to continue learning after I retired from my career in systems development and global communications at MetLife.

I knew Quest would be a great place to learn from others and meet interesting people, but it’s so much more. Quest gave me the opportunity to put my technical and communications skills to work as part of the tech support team, helping other members with their presentations. And it helped me develop in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. I’d planned to write a book on the History of Communications but decided instead to present it as a seven-session course. It was a great experience but a real stretch since I’m not a public speaker!

Quest has also given me the opportunity to show some of my artwork in the annual Q Review journal and Creativity Event and it inspired me to offer a lunchtime creativity session so more members could highlight their work. These are a few of the things I love about “my” Quest but it’s different for every member. Quest is what we make it; it takes all our work but gives back so much more.

Roy Clary

I joined Quest in 2007. Since then it has been my home for learning and a source for meaningful new friends.

Before retiring, I was a professional actor and director working off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway and in regional and summer theater with acting gigs running the gamut from Shakespearean roles to TV advertising.

At Quest, I found I could put my passion for theatre and acting to use in a way that could enhance the curriculum and provide members with new areas of expression. For years, I have run a Shakespeare course in which our members, both outgoing and timid, get up in front of the class and read Shakespeare aloud. I have recently taken over as Coordinator of the Acting Workshop in which members, new to acting, hone their skills and frequently get involved in another course I lead, “Great Plays,” where they perform, edit, and direct Great Plays of their choosing and may also participate in a year-end production. I’m also a coordinator of a poetry class in which members develop skills in reading poetry aloud.

I have enjoyed watching new members take their first baby steps on stage and become quite skilled with practice. In reading Shakespeare together and working on theatrical productions, Quest members bond and frequently become lifelong friends.

I have also put to use my experience as Director of Development for non-profits by serving on various Quest committees that contribute to the function of this organization, which has been such a plus in my life.

Ze’eva Cohen

My passion for dance has been a huge force in my life, both in Israel, my birthplace, and New York where I came in 1963 to study and perform. My satisfying and long career as dancer, choreographer and educator has been a source of blessing.

In the fall of 2020, a decade post retirement from Princeton where I founded and directed the dance program, I joined Quest Lifelong Learning as a Zoom member and then happily joined as a full member in fall 2021. Quest has been filling my need for learning and interaction in different disciplines with an intelligent and active senior population. I found a rich variety of courses taught by Quest members in the Humanities, the Sciences and the Arts. I also found Quest to be a place in which sharing one’s knowledge and creativity and developing new areas for collaborative study are welcomed and encouraged. It is also a relaxed place, where new friendships can blossom.

I would like to see an increased inclusion of the arts—music, visual arts, theater and dance—offered alongside and as part of courses in which language is the primary medium. I would like to offer a broader appreciation of dance in its multiple forms and styles, from traditional western ballet to modern and postmodern dance and to dance traditions anchored in a variety of world cultures.

Lynnel Garabedian

As an only child growing up In Detroit, I was different from my friends because I absolutely loved school. No one in my family had ever been to college, but lucky for me that my parents wanted me to have that, so when I was I born they started a savings account with five dollars. Becoming a teacher was an easy career choice. I married a college professor and happily became part of an academic community.

When I retired, I joined Quest, but at first could not attend often because my husband was sick. I did go to Joe Nathan’s Shakespeare class and was charmed by Joe’s love of the poetry, the humor and the great themes of the bard. I thought what a wonderful place Quest must be to have leaders like Joe. And indeed, I still think Quest is a wonderful place, another precious academic home for me that enriches my life intellectually, and where I have made many new friends.

Joe persuaded me to give my first presentation in his course on the medieval world. His confidence in me led to many presentations over the years in different courses, several in the “Artists” course where I am a coordinator. It’s also been a pleasure to contribute regularly to the two poetry courses and with my co-coordinator, Sandy Kessler, lead a literature course. I am immensely grateful to have found Quest.

Judy Hampson

I came to Quest just after retiring from teaching. I went to teacher training college in Manchester, England when I was 18 and have taught in a variety of schools, from a small village primary school in Cheshire to the largest elementary school in East Orange, NJ.

Moving from England with my now ex-husband and four children in 1995 was a big upheaval, and I never expected this would become my home. It was difficult to get a teaching post over here as my British credentials didn’t translate easily into the NJ school system. My first-grade students were as culturally shocked as me, especially as my last job had been in a middle school in England. However, I stayed in East Orange for twenty years, becoming a literacy coach and then a data coach. I helped children, teachers, and parents become familiar with the ever-increasing number of online programs and assessments.

During the pandemic, Quest, with its slogan “Lifelong Learning,” opened a new world for me. I love the classes and enjoy giving presentations. I put together a series of classes on The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, and I am a coordinator for the Creative Writing Workshop and Poet’s Workshop. Quest friends have made me feel very welcome and I particularly enjoy the conversations we have over lunch. Quest, my new friends, and my family give my life a purpose.

Sheryl Harawitz

While I don’t fit into a traditional box, one of the benefits of Quest membership is being with like-minded people who have their own unique approach to the world around us and who I can engage in meaningful discussions with as well as brainstorm ideas for new courses and interesting ways to expand existing ones.

I have been able to both explore a wide variety of old and, now, new interests — I uncovered a passion for ancient poetry; Enheduanna, Sappho and others whose names I never would have recognized a decade ago — and collaborate with others to develop courses that interest us and a wider Quest audience. Currently, I coordinate a course on women in Greek drama, I am a co-coordinator in Mythology, and I am planning (with two others) a new course about how ideas are birthed; how they come about and are developed. So, while I am not an expert in these areas, I find the research stimulating. The end result: we have and will have courses and small study groups that engage us in deep discussions about these and other topics.

I came to Quest with a varied series of careers that included an advanced degree in Developmental Psychology, several decades in Information Technology, and even a stint as a cabdriver. Degrees aren’t really important at Quest; here we are not teachers or experts in many of the courses we lead. Questers, like me, tend to be curious and excited to share their time, research and enthusiasm.

Laura Lopez

I joined Quest in 2019, following a career involving advocacy for children, grant writing and working with community-based organizations to reduce poverty. Since joining Quest, I’ve found it to be an engaging intellectual and cultural resource, offering courses in science, history, literature and the arts as well as museum tours. These courses are shaped by the interests of Quest’s members. Quest has responded creatively to the challenges of the pandemic by creating hybrid courses that can be attended in person or online. In addition, Quest members also share links to other artistic and intellectual resources via our email community.

What I did not realize at first was how much Quest depends on and is enriched by volunteer participation of all kinds. I’ve served on the coffee committee, prepared bi-weekly class schedules and joined the Scheduling Committee. I also did not anticipate how Quest might enhance my own skills. Recently, I became a Coordinator for a new class at Quest and made my first presentation with support from Quest’s Curriculum Committee. Though I feel comfortable writing, this was my first experience with public speaking and it built my confidence to continue presenting. I’m grateful for the opportunity Quest offers to learn new skills and be part of a wonderful, supportive community.

Frank Montaturo

After a long gig teaching I finally found the vocation that I had been destined for from time immemorial…retirement. And eventually, after a detour or two, I found myself at Quest…where flexibility and friendliness power a program designed to keep the mind and spirit engaged.

Having coordinated a class on Mesoamerican Peoples Before Columbus and floated the bait of French Popular Song—perhaps still to be fully realized one day—I hit upon an idea that perhaps might spur interest and an offering not previously assayed: engaging the appetite with Adventures in Dining. This was a natural enough upshot of years of travel and tasting, abetted of course by a teacher’s liberal vacation time. The format was simple enough: a preselected menu… a modest price…offbeat … and interest evidently piqued…by curious offerings. For me the fun was as much in the outer borough exploration and negotiations as in the act of breaking bread with other “adventurers.” Not alone in this, I very much look forward to resuming this program of adventurous dining in offbeat locations with fellow Questers.