by Yvonne Gardiner
U3A Gold Coast members welcomed a special guest to their 30th anniversary celebration on March 21, the branch's only remaining foundation member, Myra Dawson.
Myra is still involved with the group after three decades, and is currently enrolled in the "armchair travel" class.
That's to remind her of all the places she's been to, including some time in Madagascar where she taught English, says her husband Ira.
Myra joined U3A Gold Coast on its first day, mainly to keep the mind active.
"She was involved in German, Chinese and used to attend the real estate course," Ira said.
Fellowship and friendship are also a big part of U3A, he says.
"We have a speaker come every week and I listen and I really enjoy that," Myra added.
At the 30th celebration, white roses were handed out to each of the special guests - including past presidents and a Spanish tutor with 27 years of service - at the Gold Coast annual general meeting at Southport Community Centre.
Historian Alice Fairley said U3A Gold Coast was the first branch to form in the area.
"It began on Wednesday, March 2, 1988, when a local press ran a story of a meeting to be held at the Nerang hall on Tuesday, March 22," she said.
"It was expected that about 40 (the limit of the hall) would turn up on a good day.
"This publicity was a turning point whereby a large audience of more than 100 turned up - with many standing outside in the rain.
"These early members who put in the hard work began with nothing, and left us a healthy and thriving organisation of great benefit to the 'Third Agers', and indeed to the community in general."
In 1991, two more branches of U3A were formed - U3A North Gold Coast and Twin Towns.
Marvin Summers, current office manager at U3A Gold Coast, emerged as the new president at the March AGM.
"I only joined in March of last year," she said.
"I'd been recently retired and I wanted to do a class and I started doing the tap-dancing class.
"I nominated for the committee. I had skills. I'm a commercial artist by profession and I knew I could help on the visual side of things."
Marvin has certain ambitions for the group.
"In my speech I said I feel very excited and motivated and will be reaching out to the members for their help," she said.
"Our motto is actually 'learning for pleasure' but we will work together to make our U3A group the best. That's my goal, to attract many more members.
"We're going to advertise for some committee-appointed positions to alleviate the workload.
"We're going to appoint an administration officer and an assistant to the treasurer, and also advertise for a newsletter editor and a social activities convenor."
U3A Gold Coast will host a showcase on May 16 at the Southport Community Centre, from 10am to 3pm, to market its classes.
Members are encouraged to be involved either by teaching a subject of their choice, or learning whatever takes their interest.
No qualifications are required.
U3A Gold Coast started at the old Southport School in Lawson St, then spread to the old and new comunity centres, and finally to the main office on the first floor of Australia Fair Shopping Centre, Southport, opposite the cinemas.
An old scout hall in Keebra Park, Margaret St, Southport, was bought by U3A more than 16 years ago, thanks to patron Dawn Crichlow and the committee at that time.
"We're always looking for tutors, most are either ex-teachers or ex-professionals," Marvin said.
Up to 50 classes this year include oil painting, basic drawing, computer tuition on Windows, crafts like leatherwork and needlecraft, discussion groups about current affairs, and exercise such as yoga and tai chi, table tennis, guitar and ukulele playing.
Visit the website u3agoldcoast.weebly.com for enrolment details.