Carnegie Mellon University

chatham university

May 22, 2020

Osher at CMU partnering with Chatham University

Greetings to the Osher at CMU Community:

I want to share with you an exciting new First for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  This communication is a direct tie-in to an essay entitled, “Rachel Carson Ecovillage at Eden Hall,” written by President David Finegold of Chatham University.

Rachel Carson Ecovillage at Eden Hall
By Stefani Danes and David Finegold
The Pittsburgh Cohousing Group is working with Chatham University to create a sustainable community where neighbors know each other and live more lightly on the planet.  The Rachel Carson Ecovillage will be built on Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus, a beautiful 388-acre property adjacent to the Pittsburgh North Golf Course off Route 8 in the North Hills.  Residents will have opportunities to participate in campus activities and contribute to the university’s advancement of sustainability.  To learn more about the Eden Hall Campus go to:
The Ecovillage will be a homeownership community of 30 private homes ranging from one to three bedrooms.  In addition, residents will share a common house with a dining room, a large kitchen, and guest rooms, along with common gardens, walks, and parking.  The Ecovillage offers a balance of privacy and community: the privacy of one’s own house and yard and the connection with neighbors in the common house or the common green.  Residents can choose to have dinner together, work on a project together, or just enjoy a cup of coffee with a neighbor.  The entire development will be built to high standards of energy conservation, which will reduce utility bills to a fraction of their cost for conventionally built housing.  Between now and the targeted move-in in 2022, prospective homeowners will also take part in decision-making, which will enable the group to get acquainted well before moving in.
The concept of an ecovillage emerged early in the Eden Hall master planning process.  In fact, an ecovillage can be described in the same words as the Eden Hall Campus, that is, as a “place to imagine, model, and practice sustainable learning and living through…application of sustainable principles and values”.  We believe it is a fitting expression of the Eden Hall Campus vision and a unique opportunity to contribute to the sustainability of the campus economically, ecologically, and socially. 
While Rachel Carson Ecovillage has the unique advantage of its relationship to Chatham, it builds on a tradition of established communities, both ecovillages and cohousing, which are based on the same principles.  In the United States today, there are over 150 ecovillages and cohousing communities.  One of the most well-known and the nearest to Pittsburgh is Ithaca Ecovillage.

Meetings to learn more about Rachel Carson Ecovillage are held monthly, and have shifted to a Zoom format until the COVID pandemic has abated.  Anyone who is interested in joining the mailing list and receiving more information should send a message to

For more information, check out the Eden Hall (Rachel Carson) Ecovillage Facebook page.  To take a virtual tour of the Eden Hall Campus go to:  
In addition to all the benefits of life in a sustainable, active community, the EcoVillage will also be seeking to be a national model for multi-generational learning and thus, we hope, an ideal venue for Osher at CMU members.  To learn more about the exciting new partnership between Chatham and Osher at CMU, continue reading. 

The next “phase” of the Rachel Carson Ecovillage concept, which Dr. Finegold invited me to elaborate on, involves Osher at CMU. 

Beginning in August of 2019 Executive Director, Lyn Decker and President, Jim Reitz, have had a series of meetings with Chatham’s president. These meetings have led to the decision that our Lifelong Learning program is going to begin partnering with Chatham University to offer lifelong courses at their Eden Campus for current members and new members from their alumni and retired faculty.

I’m confident that all of you value the opportunity to take the classes offered through our Osher program. Most of us have had many years of a working career, ranging from professions to 9-to-5 workdays.  We commonly had to learn a lot to do our jobs, often we had to take required courses to maintain a level of competence and now many of us are retired. Learning has been a pattern for many years and so we want that to continue.

It has consistently been established via research that seniors who keep their minds active lead a healthier, more productive and happier lives, with less dependence on physical and mental healthcare services.

Dr. Finegold introduced this partnership negotiation to President Farnam Jahanian and Provost Jim Garrett of CMU who enthusiastically endorsed the proposed collaboration.  The Osher Foundation was also contacted to be sure they would not oppose such a development and the response was also a clear endorsement.

Only a small portion of the seniors in the Greater Pittsburgh area have access to the courses offered by Osher at CMU and our sister Osher program at Pitt.  Will extending courses to Chatham at their Eden campus result in more work for our officers, our board, our curriculum committee, our volunteers and especially our staff?  Absolutely, but how can we, who value lifelong learning so much, say no to such an opportunity. 

A membership analysis tells us that as many as 500 of our members live either in the North Hills or places where the Eden campus is more easily accessible than the CMU campus.  (maybe the parking issue at CMU will get better).  The focus on sustainability, which the Falk School of Sustainability faculty and their network of contacts can bring to us, adds a new, valuable element to what we now offer.

When will this start?  Our target was in the fall of 2020, but COVID-19 has thrown us a curveball, so it will get pushed back to Winter term of 2021.   We are discussing a couple of zoom courses this Fall term to provide members who choose an opportunity for at least an introduction to offerings that will come from Chatham’s side.

Our lifelong learning program is uniquely positioned to take on an effort like this. We are guests on the CMU campus, where we have been granted exciting new space, but we know that how much we will be able to expand our offerings there is limited. 

We highly value our relationship, with CMU and want it to continue and evolve for many years into the future. Although we are an independent 501(c)3, our affiliation with CMU is strong. We are delighted that we are able to proceed with the enthusiastic approval and endorsement of the CMU provost.

This report is just an introduction to you, our members, of a new, challenging and exciting phase in the evolution of Osher at CMU. President Finegold will join and speak to our board of directors zoom meeting this month.  He has offered to come to speak with our membership as soon as we’re able to resume face-to-face classes and/or virtually.   We have an active task force of six Osher Members meeting twice a month to address all of the issues relative to this new venture.

Dr. Finegold oversaw the large Osher program at Rutgers University before coming to Chatham and has a number of creative ideas for potentially extending our joint offerings in the future.

Dr. Steven Calvert, a staff person in the CMU Provost’s office back in 1992, was instrumental in initiating the program we now have. He spoke at our 25th anniversary and made this comment, “When we started this program, we had no idea what it could become.”

If you have any questions or comments, please email Executive Director, Lyn Decker at

Jim Reitz
Osher at CMU President