Retirement brought couple back to school for community counseling master

Earl and Lillian Dubin.

September 25, 2012

By Tim Belter ’13

Some couples retire so they can pass the days playing golf or relaxing in the Florida sun. Earl and Lillian Dubin had other plans for their retirement. They went back to school.

“We wanted to do something different and do it together,” Earl said.

The Dubins decided to use their retirement to give back to the community. Earl had worked as a chemical engineer and Lillian as an audiologist, but their community service work inspired them to pursue a master’s degree in community counseling together at Bradley. They graduated from the program with their degrees in 2001 while in their mid-60s and have since embarked on a series of community projects in Peoria and Florida, where they now reside.

“We were the oldest people in the program,” said Lillian. “The professors respected our points of view and were a great source of help and support.”

The Dubins chose the counseling degrees because they have volunteered for years in prison ministry, working with and counseling inmates at prisons including the Federal Correction Institution in Pekin. They became involved with that ministry after the 1987 U.S. Penitentiary riots in Atlanta. One of their sons, a prison guard at the penitentiary, was taken hostage during the riots and later released.

“These inmates had a need. They have hardly anyone outside, and they like to talk to us,” said Lillian. “We thought that if we could reach some of these inmates, we have achieved something.”

The Dubins have helped plenty of people in need, both young and old. Lillian started a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program with the Central Illinois Agency on Aging, while Earl worked with teenage girls at the Crittenton Centers and teenage boys at the Youth Farm.

“Some of the boys were gang members, and they were pretty tough to work with,” said Earl, “but they could be helped.”

When they moved to an area near Pensacola, Florida, in 2003, they continued their work there. They started another Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group in Florida and hold events like a summer picnic for the group. The Dubins’ church has also gotten involved, raising money each year to provide Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for the families.

The majority of their work is done on a volunteer basis. The couple has received payment only from the Peoria Senior Center and the Crittenton Centers. The greatest reward has been the chance to live by their mottos.

“There are some words we try to live by,” said Earl. “‘Do no harm’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”