PLATO was, and still is, a product of the mind and for the mind. The idea for PLATO came in 1980 from the mind of Elizabeth Cless, PLATO’s founder, who developed the feasibility study that led to the creation of PLATO. Rosemary Park and UCLA Extension’s Dean Leonard Freedman, along with Elizabeth Cless, cultivated and guided, monitored and mentored, so that the primary goal was always kept in mind: “To further the intellectual pursuits of our members.”

The beginning of PLATO “on the ground” must include two sterling gentlemen, Art Milhaupt and Sam Young, both of whom served as presidents of PLATO. Art was a retired lumberman. He was a thorough autodidact and had an iron fist in a velvet glove. There was so much velvet that one was very rarely aware of the fist, but it was there the few times it was needed in those early years. We are indebted to Art for his willingness to take on the burden of the presidency for PLATO’s first two years. He was terrific in that role and set a very high intellectual standard in the many SDGs he coordinated.

From the earliest days of PLATO, our SDGs have centered on group discussion of material that we study in advance. Each week's discussion leader provides questions, not a lecture. Our discussions improve everyone's understanding as we share insights about what we've studied and add context to it. Technology has provided online access and visually enhanced presentations.

From such beginnings, it’s no surprise that we’ve grown into such a substantial and worthy organization.

Adapted from a reminiscence by Charter Member, Ed Bressler, who was President of PLATO from 1988-1989.


Being around the friendly, smart people at PLATO has become an important part of my life. It is a really unique experience, much more than just learning.