Spotlight on Don Carmona: Physics, Horticulture, and Rock N’ Roll

Spotlight on Don Carmona: Physics, Horticulture, and Rock N’ Roll

By DCIE News

Spotlight on Don Carmona: Physics, Horticulture, and Rock N’ Roll

By DCIE News
Don Carmona had a dream. He was going to graduate from dentistry school, work as a practicing dentist for 25 years, then retire and open a plant nursery.

Like many of us, he holds no regret that three children, college and graduate degrees, weddings, and grandchildren got in the way of that plan. These days, he indulges his distinct set of interests by taking a myriad of classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Miami and volunteering at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Like many of our OLLI members, Don makes the most of his membership by taking classes that reflect his professional expertise, like science and physics, as well as his life-enriching hobbies, like iPhone photography and 1960’s rock n’ roll. As we chat, he recalls many of his favorite teachers by name and says he can’t pick a favorite among the classes he’s taken over the past five years because "I’ve liked them all."

He recently completed Robert Joyce’s "Music of the 1960’s" class which covers music legends like Bob Dylan, The Doors, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin. Don hopes to take Joyce’s "Motown, Soul, and Mainstream" in the spring, saying of Joyce, "He’s a really good teacher. He’s engaging and interesting and you can just see the class getting up and dancing when he’s doing his thing."

Don had an unconventional path to the University of Miami. He attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama for one year before returning home to complete one semester at Miami Dade College and eventually transferring to the University of Miami. It’s special to be back at UM, he says, because it’s "the only school that I’ve ever been to – and I’ve been to a lot - that I’ve ever really enjoyed." In describing his own attitudes toward education, he says, "I always hated school…but I enjoyed learning" and is grateful that OLLI at UM has enabled him to do that post-retirement.

"I really enjoy learning; I just don’t like the structure of academic institutions. But OLLI has allowed me to carry that forward. I have two granddaughters who are graduating from college so I’ve been trying to brainwash them that learning is a lifelong thing and not just something you do until you get out of school."

Five years ago, after another retired friend suggested OLLI, Don took one look at the course catalog and was convinced. He commonly does the same for his own friends, saying, "I talk it up whenever I’m with contemporaries."

Both he and his wife are members of OLLI at UM and Don says he is appreciative of the opportunity to keep learning on his own terms and with the convenience of Zoom.

"It continues to enrich my knowledge of the world and the things that I’m interested in," he says, "OLLI gives me an avenue for that pursuit… I’m so glad it’s there as a resource in our community."