Graduates hail the mind-opening values of the Clemente Course in the Humanities; Codman Sq. Health Center hosts cultural programming

By Seth Daniel, News Editor, Dorchester Reporter

When Rose Dolin and her two sisters, Hans and Lynda, signed up for the one-year commitment to the Clemente

Sisters Hans Dolin, Rose Dolin, and Lynda Dolin graduated from the Clemente Course in the Humanities at the Dorchester location and celebrated at a ceremony last month in the Great Hall in Codman Square.

Course in the Humanities at the Codman Square Neighborhood Health Center’s Adult Education program, they had no idea how many doors it would open to them intellectually. They thought they would simply be practicing English speaking and writing.

While they did do that, they also got a tutorial in the finer points of art history, among other studies. During a graduation program this spring in the Great Hall, Rose Dolin took note of how the program has changed the course of her life:

“Coming to this country six years ago has been very hard,” said the native of Haiti. “Feeling a sense of belonging in the US has always been challenging for me. Adjusting has been a really long journey. A lot of times I have felt very lonely, especially during the Covid-19 quarantine. I often asked, ‘What will I do with my life?’ I was on the verge of really giving up before Clemente. For me, Clemente opened up my eyes to so many things with American history, writing, art history and English. I feel enlightened.”

The Clemente Course in the Humanities has been in operation at the Health Center for 22 years. It is sponsored there by the Mass Cultural Council as one of five Clemente Course sites around the state that provide low-income adults with college-level introductory humanities courses, free of charge, for credit that is awarded by Bard College.

Co-Directors Tim McCarthy and Jack Cheng took the lead on the course in the fall of 2001 in the Great Hall and have taught hundreds of students since then. They collaborate with other teachers and instructors, but in the end, the reward is the lightbulb that goes off when students invest in studying the humanities and the world of arts.

“The best definition we’ve come up with of the humanities is it is the study together of what it means to be human so we can all become more humane,” said McCarthy, a Dorchester resident. “This course was born just after the 9/11 terrorist attack with just a little bit of money. We started here and people came, and they have continued to come for the past 22 years for this joyous work.”

Added Cheng, directing his comments to the graduates at the Great Hall ceremony: “I hope you’ll take with you all we learned and the trips we took with each other and the talks about what is right and wrong in the world and what happened in the past to make it the way it is. I hope when you’re in Dorchester or elsewhere, you’ll visit an art gallery or notice a building’s architecture outside – and that you don’t do those things alone, but with others.”

Sharon Howell, a 60-year-old Lower Mills native and member of Morningstar Baptist Church, said she committed to the one-year Clemente Course after feeling burnt out from the pandemic. She said she had never in her life watched television until the pandemic set in, and then, after watching too much, she said, her brain “needed some exercise.”

Her interests were philosophy, African American history, art history, but more than that, they were about herself.

“I want to say I learned truth,” she said. “They have the saying, ‘To thine own self be true.’ This class taught me a lot more about that. I learned how much further I’m ready and willing to take the truth and honesty in life.”

The 2023 graduates of the Clemente Course in Dorchester included: Rose Sherley Dolin, Hans Dolin, Lynda Dolin, Sharon Howell, Hazel Hutcherson, Pierre Jeremie, Gwendolyn McLean Kirkland, Sandra Means, and Dianna Miles.
For more information on the next course, contact Michelle Rue at 617-740-2531, or by email at