It’s hard to believe we’ve just wrapped up another calendar year of OLLI programs! I continue to be impressed by the intriguing and discussion-provoking topic areas presented at our programs around the state. And on campus, our courses drew a larger audience, which increased our overall class size average!
Our 2011 membership numbers are down a bit from last year (about 3%) which we believe is largely due to the flooding and hurricane disaster that greatly impacted residents across the state. But our walk-in totals across the state are up significantly – 50% increase over 2010. Let’s see if we can convert some of our walk-in attendees to become members!
We have a couple of marketing initiatives in place for January - sponsorship ads on VPR that will run mid-January through February; and on January 3rd, I was interviewed on the Across the Fence program promoting our OLLI programs. Let’s all continue to share ideas and work together as we meet our goal of 1000 members by extending the opportunity to participate in our wonderful OLLI programs.
Assistant Director, OLLI of the University of Vermont
FROM OUR INSTITUTES
OLLI at UVM
OLLI at UVM
Mary Lucia Razza, Planner
OLLI at UVM just completed our 5th session of classes. We continue to grow our membership, and currently have 265 members. Changes have been made in our schedule, which has created increased attendance in individual classes. It has been wonderful to have state-wide OLLI members and EEE members join us in some of our classes and events. We successfully completed 2 travel courses and are planning a trip to Alaska this June with our OLLI partners in Fairbanks, Alaska. It is going to be a great trip!
Our focus this year is to increase member involvement in the OLLI operations programming, membership development, and travel. Connie Bonaccio, OLLI member, has been working with the OLLI team and recently Mary Scully has joined us. We are planning on a retreat this spring to set our goals and create a plan to grow the campus OLLI program.
Our new OLLI website is now up and we will be mailing a brochure for our Winter/Spring courses and events in the next week. I hope some of you will join us!
OLLI at UVM Travel Provence Fall 2011
In September of this year, a group of 13 OLLI members and 3 staff took an amazing trip to Provence, France. It was the perfect time of year to go; the crush of summer tourists had departed for home, it was still warm (in the 80’s) during the day and in the 50’s at night. We had only one slightly overcast day and considered ourselves blessed.
This trip was remarkable in that it provided an insider’s experience of all that area in France has to offer with an emphasis on visiting local villages and markets, learning about and tasting wine, cheese, bread, and olives. Our guide Bern Terry knew the area well and has many connections there which served to enrich the trip.
Our group stayed in homes of the gracious residents of Saignon, a town of about 400 residents perched on the top of a hill, affording splendid views of the surrounding region. We got to meet and converse with many of the local shop and restaurant owners who were all well aware that there were visitors from the University of Vermont. The beautiful Senanque Abbey, the villages of Roussillion, Gordes, Isle sur la Sorgue, Fontaine du Vaucluse, Apt (where every Saturday there is a market that has been operating since 1000 AD), and Avignon provided highlights for our excursions. We were also treated to visits to two private homes: one to see an olive grove and learn how the oil is produced, and the second to a private villa in Murs where we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch. A day of visiting area vineyards was also included in our itinerary.
All the photos taken and shared leave us all with memories of a very special trip. We have already enjoyed a reunion dinner since our return home!
OLLI at UVM: Bridging Science & Spirit: Examining the Near-Death Experience
Richard Hertzberg, member
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. If you find yourself sympathizing with Hamlet in this regard, then you might consider checking out one of Fred Fengler’s courses exploring paranormal phenomena. I enrolled in his class “Bridging Science & Spirit: Examining the Near-Death Experience” this fall. Initially scheduled for four sessions between September 28 through October 19, 2011, student demand resulted in several more classes on near-death experiences (NDE’s) and related phenomena being tacked on.
I learned that NDE’s are quite common, particularly in emergency medical and surgical settings. They share a variety of manifestations, most notably the “out-of-body experience”, where a person views the action from above his/her body, say near the ceiling of the room. They’re often able to describe activity in detail that occurred while they were unconscious (to the surprise if not delight of their physicians). Studies have been designed to test the veracity of these experiences; for example a photograph was placed on the top of a light facing upward. A reawakened patient is then asked to describe the photograph, something that could only be done from a vantage point above it.
A retired UVM professor of Sociology, Fred brings a scientist’s viewpoint to his material. He spends time both describing scientific methods of verification and presenting skeptical counter-arguments. The result is that the course provided a gentle introduction to some seriously mind-bending phenomena. These phenomena are related, and what ultimately emerges is a theoretical framework that addresses a lot of the “why questions” we ask ourselves during the course of our lives. I understand that Fred will be teaching two classes during OLLI’s spring semester, and I expect they’ll both be as exciting as this one. I’d recommend, however, that you bring a snack — our classes typically ran 30 – 60 minutes longer than their allotted time, with various thoughts and ideas spilling over each other in a frenzy to be articulated.
Jacquie Walker, Chair
Our fall lectures series was very well received by about 75 attendees each week. It was called “Nature and Artifice in Architecture” and was presented on 6 Monday mornings, 10-12noon, from October 3 to November 14. The presenter was Donald Sherefkin, a practicing architect with a professional degree from The Cooper Union. He has taught architecture for twenty years and is currently on the faculty of Bennington College.
In the series, Professor Sherefkin showed how our structures are very much of the earth and that the history of architecture is a record of the manifold ways in which cultures have understood, and responded to, their relationship to nature.
In the afternoon, we had a delightful series presented by Tony Barrand, called “Folk Songs as Social History”. We sang our way through the path of history, old and more recent.
Our next series, of three sessions, will be on politics presented by Michael Krasner, who lives in Westminster and teaches at Queens College.
The Central Vermont OLLI has a great program lined up for the spring of 2012. That’s because of an agile program committee, led by Montpelier ’s Reidun Nuquist. The program opens February 15 with returning speaker Ben Scotch asking some fundamental questions about The U.S. War Powers Act, and concludes in April with our returning opera expert Tim Tavcar. Read about our other speakers on the OLLI web site. They include Haviland Smith, Ken Squier and many other expert and accomplished Vermont personalities. And of course, Rick Winston will continue his outstanding film series.
We are delighted that these interesting people come and speak to our gatherings. The word about our excellent programs is out, and we have attendees from as far as Wilder and Island Pond. Come attend with us, Wednesdays at 1:30pm. Consult the schedule for location, Montpelier VCFA or the Aldrich library in Barre. The film series meets at 10:00 am at the Savoy theater in Montpelier .
Millie Marron, Chair
Greetings! At this writing we have one more lecture to go on November 9th in our nine week Fall Series. Overall, it’s been a successful semester with attendance averaging approximately 60 people [the highest was 77 for "Underground Railroad in Vermont" and the lowest 43 for "Pirates of the Caribbean"]. Our members totaled 53 which were 10 down from our record of Fall 2010. There were many conflicts in our area affecting OLLI participation, including the flood in Waterbury from hurricane Irene. This town is part of our OLLI district; and we normally expect strong participation from there.
The highlight of our series was Bob Manning’s presentation of “Frida Kahlo and the Mexican Muralists”. For the social hour following the lecture, Jack Pickett, owner of Frida’s Taqueria and Grill, donated delicious tamales and churros. What a feast the 70 attendees enjoyed! Another high point was Eric Hanson’s presentation of “Loon Conservation in VT” on November 2. Sixty attendees appeared very engaged with this outstanding lecture, and we received much positive feedback.
We look forward to our nine week Winter Series beginning January 11, 2012. We also have begun to organize Fall 2012.
Penny Packard, Chair
I am writing this on November 29th. John and I have had lunch outdoors (yes we wore jackets) and my laundry is hanging on the outside line! No need to comment further on climate change.
We began and ended our Fall lecture series on Vermontish notes. Marselis Parsons, in our first talk, entertained us with recollections of T.V. in Vermont, and Alan Jordan, Executive Director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, shared the history, experiences and challenges of the orchestra, in our last talk.
The attendees of our lecture series continue to indicate that they have interests in a wide range of subjects, and so each semester our topics are varied. This fall we brought in speakers to discuss nature, literature, philosophy, art, religion, politics, music and science. Our lecturers are often professors in their topics and all are interesting, informed, entertaining and responsive to questions.
The Spring 2012 program is set, beginning on March 21st. (Perhaps then we will have snow!!). Again the subject areas are wide and we will hear about history and religion, politics, entertainment, nature and history in Pakistan, Taoism, music and literature. Our speakers are authors, teachers and professors. We already have one speaker booked for the Fall of 2012!
Our numbers of participants at each lecture has been steady at 40 plus, but we do hope others will join us in this easy learning environment. The added incentive to attend our series is the refreshment table. After each talk people gather around to continue their discussions while enjoying delicious nutritious snacks. The organizer of this, Marvelene, puts on such an attractive table of tea, coffee, veggies, fruits and sweets, and always has a centrepiece appropriate to the day’s topic, (i.e. for the lecture on pollen and allergies she had a vase of golden rod and a box of Kleenex!). We are lucky too, to have Joan, who over the last 5 years has provided us with her famous rhubarb punch.
At the end of this year I wish you all the very best for the coming season, and especially good health in the New Year.
Lee Rohe, Co-Chair
The Fall program at Rutland’s Godnick Center started off with a toe-tapping series called Vermont’s Music Traditions. Linda Radke sang wonderful historic melodies, fully costumed in old-time garb. The three other lectures concentrated on historic music, Vermont’s contra and square dance and two lecturers showed us all how the Celtic harp and dulcimer are to be played. Live “fiddlin’” was much appreciated by our audience.
The second program series entitled Great Adventures in Reading was tailor -made for our listeners who we’ve discovered are avid readers. The first and second in the roster were devoted to American Gothic–Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner, even Stephen King. The well-attended talk on F. Scott Fitzgerald brought out many opinions from our attendees. It seems that most were familiar with “The Great Gatsby” and had many comments about it. Why do we still read Jane Austen (after 200 years!) was answered by our knowledgeable presenter and the last part of this literature series looked at Voices from Vermont, a cogent survey of the pre-eminent writers from the state.
The last segment was devoted to the Civil War and Vermont’s role in it. We had the estimable Howard Coffin present all four lectures. His animated style and engaging delivery made this subject come alive. And perhaps due to the subject and his name recognition, we had a huge attendance–over 38 walk-ins!
John Newton, Chair
St. Albans has just ended our 6th complete year of operations, running two twelve week series of lectures each year at the St. Albans Historical Museum. The Fall ‘11 session was essentially a break even financially, but clearly stood out for drawing a record number of walk-in attendees. It started with the program we had to cancel last spring, due to the groundhog day snowstorm, because the speaker, Daniel Bean, was unavailable until this fall. His presentation, “Orphan Trains in Vermont” drew 63 walk-ins alone with a total attendee count of 124. We were setting up chairs as fast as we could. Both total attendance and walk-in numbers were records and set the trend for the balance of the year, even factoring in that we actually ran thirteen programs this session.
Historically, the average number of individuals who elect to attend on a walk-in basis is 119 (over the last 11 sessions). Fall ‘11 saw 164 individuals attend one or more lectures, up by almost 40%. The average number of total walk-in visits is 201 (over the last 11 sessions). Fall ‘11 saw 298 total walk-in visits, up by 48%. Our subscriber count was an increase of one over our historic average which suggests that walk-in attendance was not at the expense of subscriber numbers. So our program is trending in a positive direction.
Our Spring ‘12 series is booked and the program can be found on the website. We meet on Wednesdays at 11:00 AM on the 3rd floor of the St. Albans Historical Museum. The site is handicap accessible with parking behind the building and all are invited to attend.
The St. Johnsbury Fall’11 sessions were well attended by many walkins as well as members. Examples of their programs included: The Future of Broadcast News with WCAX News Director Anson Tebbetts, Working with Memoir presented by local resident Reeve Lindbergh, and Capturing Severe Weather through Photos by meteorologist Chris Bouchard. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the Spring program!
Hugh Putnam, Program Committee
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in Springfield has brought over a hundred great programs to Springfield which otherwise would not have been available. OLLI takes on many forms across the state and country. Our format is to provide a variety of programs in each semester, the “something for everyone” approach. We try to carry this variety throughout the year to create on-going themes. History seems to be the most popular of the themes, with local history ones being the best attended.
We have programs that focus on music, art, nature, science and history topics. This fall we had a program on Rodgers & Hart and Rodgers & Hammerstein (music), Frank Lloyd Wright (art & architecture), the Connecticut River, Wolves, (nature) Snow (science), and Telling Your Story, Salem Witchcraft, Founders of the Springfield Machine Tool Industry and pre 20th Century Clothing Fashions (history & local history).
We have already planned our next semester following these same basic themes. We get good turn-out for our programs and they seem to be enjoyed by all. We meet in a wonderful facility with comfortable chairs, a good sound system, a large screen monitor for computer Powerpoint programs, and lots of easy parking in the adjacent parking lot, with only five steps up the stairs as well as a ramp.
Hugh Putnam, right, discusses the program with speaker, Amanda Kuhnert, who spoke about how important it is for us to record our life stories to share them with our families. Hugh, a member of the program committee, invited her to speak. He enjoys contacting possible speakers and is always on the lookout for ideas and people that he can contact for our OLLI programs. He also serves on the statewide OLLI advisory council. Since his retirement from the business/manufacturing world he has embraced the OLLI philosophy of “learning for the fun of it!” and has been a great addition to our membership and to our program committee.