Beacon Hill Seminars is a membership organization of people who have a vigorous interest in continuing their intellectual growth.
In early 2000, under the leadership of Jack Curtin, a “founding council” gathered on Beacon Hill to consider forming a community-based program for lifelong learning. The council’s vision was to provide a diverse set of courses in which participants could broaden their intellectual horizons, learn from one another, and have fun along the way. That vision took root in fall 2000 as the newly organized Beacon Hill Seminars (BHS) offered 13 courses with about 60 participants.
As a guide for the years ahead, our founders set forth a number of operational tenets:
- Remain as an independent organization run by and for the members.
- Maintain openness to all, with no admission requirements. Welcome members of all ages and from all neighborhoods. Extend full or partial scholarships to those needing financial assistance.
- Offer intellectually engaging courses that facilitate discussion. Avoid how-to courses.
- Provide experienced course leaders who serve on a pro-bono basis and welcome the opportunity to engage adult learners.
- Select board members who are active members of the program, either as teachers or participants.
- Encourage volunteer opportunities for members who wish to play a part in various aspects of the program.
- Keep administration and rules to a minimum.
Our courses take place in historic venues in Beacon Hill and have become well established as the core of our program. We have increased the number of courses available each semester; extended the range of subjects they cover; broadened the type of teaching formats to include a mix of seminars, lectures, off-site visits, and brief pop-up courses on timely topics; and incorporated audio/visual technology into the classrooms. In the process, our membership has grown to about 200 individuals coming from Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and beyond.
We have facilitated opportunities for members to get to know one another through the kickoff event we hold before each semester and through other events. We have also gained immeasurably from members’ volunteer efforts in planning and hosting these events, running our annual book sale, serving as class coordinators, generating ideas for courses, leading courses, and recruiting new members.
We have improved our administrative operations, enhanced our communication capacities, benefitted from strategic planning, and established a solid financial foundation for the program while keeping a tight lid on costs to members. We are proud that about 25 percent of our revenues come from member contributions.
Our Challenge Ahead
We celebrate all that we have achieved as an organization. But as we approach our twentieth anniversary, we recognize that we cannot rest on our laurels. As we continue our efforts to improve the program, we commit ourselves to the challenge of embracing our tradition while also addressing changes taking place in technology, member expectations, and the marketplace for adult learning programs in the Boston metropolitan area.
Board of Directors 2019-2020
- Mark R. Yessian, President
- David Rosenberg, Vice President and Clerk
- Carol Ann Hayes, Treasurer
- Judy Tedeschi
- Mitchell Adams
- Lee Behnke
- Bev Christians
- Dave Driscoll
- J. Ryan Gunsalus
- Christian Henry
- John Hodgman
- Elizabeth Sanders
- William Sherden
- Barbara Sinclair
- Amy Tsurumi
We would like to thank our invaluable group leaders who give so generously of their time and expertise, and our members who inspire and challenge us to meet their intellectual expectations. We would also like to thank the following:
- Joanne Legge
- Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro
- Cambridge Trust Company
- Church of the Advent
- J.M. Forbes and Meeting House Offices
- Tom Kershaw and Hampshire House
- Toscano Restaurant
Frequently Asked Questions
Beacon Hill Seminars is a community of shared learning that welcomes active participants of any age from anywhere. All group leaders donate their time.
You must be a member of BHS to take classes in a given academic year. Annual membership runs from July 1 to June 30 and includes access to BHS classes, regular communications, and invitations to all BHS membership programs and events.
Becoming a member simply requires filling out the Member Application and Enrollment Forms, paying your annual membership dues of $300 (which are tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law) and the $100 per semester course registration fee.
All members may choose to sign up for either one or two semesters in the spring, or at the start of each semester. BUT if someone signs up in the spring for the first time, they pay the full membership dues and are entitled to only one semester’s worth of classes for their $100.
1. The fall term begins the first week in October and spring semester courses typically run either February/March or April/May. In addition to the catalogue, you may go to www.beaconhillseminars.org for course descriptions, biographies of group leaders, upcoming events, and general information.
2. Members may request up to three seminars in the fall (in order of preference) and an alternative course. Assignments will be made on a space-available basis.
3. Beacon Hill Seminars, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. Our membership dues ($300) are tax-deductible. Contributions in excess of membership dues also qualify for tax deductions and support scholarships and other expenses not covered by dues.
5. In bad weather, BHS follows the school cancellation decisions of Boston Public Schools.