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 acting 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

Since joining Quest in 2016, I have worn 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 and produced The Next Step for Quest.

As a co-chair of the technology team, I’ve helped facilitate our hybrid program. 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 discovered Quest in August 2012 when preparing for retirement. After working for decades as a researcher and editor, I was ready for new experiences and Quest, a group of people dedicated to learning from each other, seemed like a perfect fit.

I didn’t know a soul in Quest when I joined, but slowly began making friends, giving presentations, and getting involved in committees. My interest in writing found an outlet in Quest’s arts and literary journal, Q Review. I was 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 pandemic. When Quest transitioned to Zoom presentations in 2020, I took a leading role in that 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 proudly serving as Acting President, while looking forward to peer learning in a post-COVID environment. Due in large part to Quest, my retirement has 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, Sixties. 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/global communications.

Upon joining, I immediately put my technical and communications skills to work as part of the tech support team and currently am Co-Chair of the Marketing and Communication Committee. But Quest also inspired me to 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 provided an outlet for my artistic passion. I exhibit my artwork in the annual Q Review journal and Creativity Event and was inspired to launch a creativity course, so more members could share their work.

Because of the multiplicity of its offerings, Quest is different for every member. My Quest will be different than your Quest. It is what we make it, taking all our work, but giving 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. 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 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 participate in a year-end production.

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 used my experience in non-profits, serving on 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 as a Zoom member and then as a full member in fall 2021. Quest has been filling my need for learning and interacting with an intelligent, active senior population in studies spanning the humanities, sciences, and the arts. Quest is a place in which sharing 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 courses in which the written and spoken language is the primary medium. I hope to add to our curriculum a broader appreciation of dance that will include dance traditions anchored in a variety of world cultures, in addition to ballet, modern and postmodern dance.

Lynnel Garabedian

Growing up in Detroit, I was different from my friends because I absolutely loved school. No one in my family had been to college, but lucky for me that my parents opened a college savings account when I was born. 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 could not attend often at first 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. 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. His confidence in me led to many presentations in different courses over the years. It’s been a pleasure to contribute regularly to the Artists course, the two poetry courses, and with my partner, 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. My teacher training was in Manchester, England and I taught in a variety of schools, from a small village primary school in Cheshire to the largest elementary school in East Orange, NJ. My British teaching credentials didn’t translate easily into the NJ school system. My first-grade students were as culturally shocked as me, especially since my last job had been in a middle school in England.

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 pursue my passion for writing and educating as a coordinator for both the Creative Writing and Poet’s Workshops. 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 I can engage in meaningful discussion 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 were unfamiliar — and collaborate with others to develop new courses. Currently, I am chairman of the Curriculum Committee, lead coordinator for Symposium, and co-coordinate Toni Morrison and a poetry course. 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 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.

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.