For the Love of Learning
What do you want to learn next? That's a question Dr. Jeanne Audet asks herself every day. At age 86, the retired physician is one of the pioneers of a local drive toward learning at every age, serving on the curriculum board of Lifelong Learning of Hilton Head Island.
While physicians and scientists have begun touting the benefits of lifelong learning, the concept is nothing new to Jeanne, who has made learning a lifetime endeavor. Soaking up knowledge like a spring flower seeking the sun, she spreads it like a dandelion blowing in the wind.
"I'm a ham. I like to teach," said Jeanne, whose courses range from history to the human brain. "That's my thing. I like to do research," she said.
In addition to the Lifelong Learning program, Jeanne is a docent at the Coastal Discovery Museum where she lectures on topics such as island explorers, Indian spirituality and Gullah medicine. As president of the Astronomy Club of Hilton Head Island and a member of NASA's Solar System Ambassador Program, she particularly enjoys turning others on to the night sky.
"I love it, and it's fun. There are a lot of things I can't do, but I can do that," she said. "I've gotten into the schools. I've gotten into garden clubs and have given lectures on herbs. I'm interested in a lot of things, especially where people are interested in hearing about those things."
Attending private boarding schools, the value of a good education was instilled in Jeanne's mind at an early age. "My mother and father never gave me regular girl stuff," she said. Her father urged her to study law, but Jeanne was fascinated by chemistry. Weary of laboratory research, she decided she wanted to be with people instead. Attending medical school in 1948, she was one of four girls in the class and one of only two who graduated. She went on to practice family medicine, pediatrics and rehabilitation medicine in Connecticut for 40 years.
Retiring to Hilton Head Island in 1990, Jeanne continues seeking opportunities to learn and teach. "The island draws people from all vocations and avocations. You can come here, and if you know something, they all want to hear about it," she said. Continuing to exercise your mind extends your life and the quality of life, she explained, emphasizing the importance of establishing good living habits. "You can't just say I'll start now at 86. You have to be doing it all along the way."
Jeanne's mind aerobics consist of researching various topics for her own lectures as well as participating in a variety of lifelong learning classes taught by others. "My only complaint is I can't make them all," she said. Benefits include improving memory and socializing with like-minded people. "It puts you in a class of people who seek knowledge," she said.
Although not scheduled to teach this winter, Jeanne will be conducting a spring class on the past history of Honey Horn Plantation as well as leading an exploration of the night sky.
Hometown: Clifton, NJ Family: husband, Robert Joseph Audet, M.D.; four children: Robert Joseph, Jr., M.D., Michelle Jeanne, Elise Renee, and Charles Henry Describes herself as: curious, enthusiastic and busy If she could spend three hours with anyone in the world, it would be: Albert Einstein. "I'd like to know what made him tick." Life motto: "You can do anything if you want to." People would be surprised to know: she was born at 4 o'clock on the Fourth of July, 1921.
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