CommUniversity — a program of adult education/enrichment classes offered at Davenport's St. Ambrose University on Sundays in February — is coming to an end after 40 years.
Letters were mailed to recent participants earlier this month, signed by the seven board members who make up the nonprofit's entire staff, all working as volunteers.
Among the reasons are loss of a free venue in which to hold classes (St. Ambrose had provided space since the program's inception), the resignations of several key board members who tried unsuccessfully to recruit replacements and a drop in grants and donations to support the program.
"It was a whole confluence of issues that added up to too much — too many problems to solve," said Katie Hanson, a faculty member at Augustana College, Rock Island, and president of the CommUniversity board.
The program will still be held this February, but that will be it.
"Many of us (on the board) want to move on to other things," said Hanson, who for the past 10 years has been the person who has arranged all the classes and lined up all the teachers. While a few people seek her out, asking to teach, mostly it's the other way around, she said. "It's time-consuming."
In addition to Hanson, another key impending resignation is that of Alan Campbell, who has served as treasurer, prepared the organization's tax return and written proposals for grants to help support the program.
"We tried our darnedest to recruit (replacements)," Hanson said. But four people she had in mind turned her down.
"It's really sad," she said of CommUniversity's demise. "But we didn't willy-nilly decide to end the program. It is very painful to see it die on my watch. But we couldn't see any other way at this point."
"If this leaves a vacuum, maybe new people will come forward," she said.
St. Ambrose had offered its space for free — the ballroom in the Rogalski Center for an opening address on a topic of current interest and between 30 and 40 individual classrooms around campus.
But there have been budget cuts, and in today's competitive educational climate in which St. Ambrose is constantly trying to attract new and non-traditional students, it wanted to make the best use of its space, said Mary Heinzman, the college librarian and St. Ambrose liaison to the program.
Board members considered other venues, but all had drawbacks, Denise Hollonbeck, board vice president, said. Neither the Urban Campus of Scott Community College in downtown Davenport nor Augustana offer enough close-by parking, a major consideration for the mostly older demographic that attends the classes, she said.
The board considered targeting younger people by changing up its classes, she said. But with younger people perhaps needing childcare, or simply wanting one day free in a week otherwise consumed by jobs and errands, members did not think that would be successful, Hollonbeck said.
Finally, enrollment has fallen from a peak of nearly 600 to 350-400, she said. "Four hundred is still a pretty significant number, but an awful lot of work goes into that. I don't think the average person understands all the time and effort.
"So everything kind of came together," she said. "Forty years is a pretty good run."