Program Puts College Lectures Within Seniors’ Reach

Melvin Waters, 86, still enjoys a good teasing from the ladies who, like him, call Highland Springs retirement community home. When Waters heads to class at UT Dallas, he said, they titter. “Everyone here teases me. Some of the ladies, say, ‘I don’t know why in the world you’re going to school!’”    

But despite losing his eyesight six years ago, Waters is clear on this issue: “Going to class keeps your mind working.” Waters became interested in academics again through the UT Dallas Good Neighbors program. Since its inception two years ago, the initiative has sent faculty each month to area senior living communities for lectures on topics ranging from exploring Mars to brain health to Frankenstein. The program has grown to include visits by seniors to campus for concerts, library tours and sporting events.

Melvin Waters

Dr. Douglas Kiel conducted his final class of the semester at Highland Springs so that he could congratulate Melvin Waters not only in front of his classmates but the 50 or so residents who joined the crowd.

The Good Neighbors lecture that Waters attended last year led to a friendship with the presenter, Dr. Douglas Kiel, head of the UT Dallas Public Affairs Program. Waters then enrolled in Kiel’s class, The Brain in the Workplace. “When I was in college, everyone was always so serious; the professors ruled, and that was it. Now they seem more human and more humorous,” said Waters, who worked as an accountant before he and his wife, Josephine, moved to Highland Springs. For Richard Waters BS’84, watching his father attend his alma mater has been gratifying. “He’s more open-minded. This is just one more thing that gets him out, gets him using his brain and keeps him mentally sharp.”

Ted Gilles, 84, has been busy sending emails from his home at Edgemere senior living community. “Just yesterday, I sent Professor Benavides two emails about taxes.” Gilles met Ted Benavides, executive in residence at UT Dallas’ Institute of Public Affairs, at a Good Neighbors presentation on the federal budget. “It was very interactive,” said Gilles. “We literally tackled the budget issue and how to handle the deficit,” explained Gilles, a retired engineer. “He made us think.”

For UT Dallas professors like Dr. Meghna Sabharwal, building relationships with seniors through the Good Neighbors program is equally rewarding. “This is an excellent opportunity for faculty members to have a meaningful exchange and dialogue with our local retirement communities,” said Sabharwal, an assistant professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. “These individuals have had very successful careers, and I see this as an occasion to not only provide them with information, but also learn from them.”

President Daniel visited with Edgemere residents at a Good Neighbors presentation.


Dr. Aaron Conley (right), vice president for development and alumni relations and creator of Good Neighbors, welcomed a group from Highland Springs to campus for breakfast in the Dining Hall and a tour of the Campus Enhancement Project.


Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].