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A Lifelong Journey in the Liberal Arts, Together

Husband and wife student duo share their mutual love of the liberal arts

Donna and Tom Ioppolo standing in front of the Bean in Chicago

Tom and Donna Ioppolo are a husband-and-wife duo with a shared interest in continuing education. From Open Enrollment courses to several full cycles through the Basic Program, and a soon-to-be conferred MLA Degree, the Ioppolos have seen it all – together.

Their story is worth sharing, and you can read it below in their own words:

Donna Ioppolo:

On the night Tom and I met and discovered we both attended Loyola Law School, one of his first questions to me was, “Did you take a class with George Anastaplo?” Some of our earliest dates were at Works of the Mind lectures. We really are a couple of nerds.

In 1989 after having our first child, I decided not to return to work. Following a summer of intense baby-care in which my intellectual stimulation came from reading the mail, we decided I needed at least some adult conversation once a week and with Tom’s encouragement, I registered for the Basic Program. I walked into my first class at the Fine Arts Building which happened to be reading the Meno with … George Anastaplo. I came home that night and remarked, “He spent 90 minutes just discussing the first sentence!” I had found my intellectual home.

Two more children and four years later, I completed the Basic Program and immediately started taking Alumni class reading everything from the Symposium to the Queens of Crime under the tutelage of the best instructors. I’m glad that I finally had the structure in which to read Moby Dick, War and Peace, and Don Quixote. My favorite so far has been the two-year sequence on Roman history, philosophy and literature.

I returned to work in our local public library and used that summer quarter discussion of mysteries to lead our library’s mystery discussion group for ten years. As a readers’ advisor, my wide range of reading allowed me to suggest books to patrons far outside those normally recommended. In observing the skills of the finest instructors, I was able to lead book discussions on the widest variety of materials.

Attending the Basic Program has been the most intellectually rewarding experience of my life. I’m committed to life-long learning and expect to be engaged with the Basic Program for many years to come.

Tom Ioppolo:

I was drawn to the Graham School’s Basic Program of Liberal Education in 1979 shortly after graduating law school. I had always had an interest in reading and discussing books, and I must have seen or heard an ad about the program. At that time, some classes were offered at Rosary College in River Forest. I remember vividly meeting George Anastaplo at the first class session, whose name I knew from his Supreme Court bar admission case.

I recall as well how skillful and engaging George was in leading those small group discussions—Macbeth and Antigone were two of the books on the list. It was just so (forgive the cliché) interesting and exciting to be in those discussions with him and fellow students. So began my journey through the four-year program, alumni classes, and more.

After about seven years in the program, I had a hiatus of some years because of work and family commitments while Donna began the program.

About ten years ago, with more time to spare, I resumed taking classes in the Graham School. Now, having retired, I am a student in in the Master of Liberal Arts program taught by tenured faculty in the University. That, too, has been a worthwhile experience, with its range of different subject areas and ideas up for reflection and discussion.

Whether in the Basic Program, open courses, or the MLA program, I have found all the instructors to be engaging and deeply knowledgeable about the texts that we read. And you learn as well from the contributions of the other students. I am grateful that I found my way to that first Basic Program class 40 years ago.

UChicago campus building with ivy growing on the outside.

Interested in starting your own love story with the liberal arts?

Read about the Master of Liberal Arts program and what it can offer you.

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Tom Ioppolo

Tom Ioppolo


Tom is a lifelong Graham student, having taken classes for several decades.

Donna Ioppolo

Donna Ioppolo


Donna is a lifelong Graham student, having taken classes for several decades.

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