Electronic Newsletter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -
January 2011
In This Issue
A Look Back with Thanks
Instructor Spotlight: Sarah Wisseman
Profile: Kathleen Holden
Profile: Dick Koch
Profile: Carol Kubitz
Traveling West Aboard the Texas Eagle
E-Reviews: Your Favorite Movies
Still Time to Sign Up
An OLLI Quiz
Olli Funnies
Answers to Quiz
Quick Links
OLLI Events Calendar

OLLI Illinois Home Page

Study Groups
Lunchtime Lectures

OLLI logo
Editorial Committee: Anna Merritt (chair),  Debbie Day, Traci Nally, Cecile Steinberg, Barbara Meyer (Technical Support) Please send your ideas, photos, and stories for consideration to

A Look Back with Thanks

2010 was a very special year for OLLI at the University of Illinois. Because of OLLI's remarkable growth in membership and its outstanding and varied program offerings, OLLI received a $1 million endowment gift from the Osher Foundation. This gift is expected to generate income of approximately $40,000 annually. However, 2010 was also the final year of the Foundation's 4-year "start-up" grant of $100,000 per year.


Many OLLI members, recognizing the need to begin building a reserve fund to help guarantee OLLI's ability to meet future operating expenses, have contributed a total of more than $8,000 to the new OLLI Fund at the University of Illinois Foundation. These funds will help ensure that OLLI remains affordable and accessible for all who wish to participate. As one member said recently as she mentioned that she was including OLLI in her year-end giving, "I want OLLI to be around for me and our whole community for many, many years."

Instructor Spotlight: Sarah Wisseman


Sarah Wisseman"I had to write it!" Sarah Wisseman, who will teach her second OLLI class this semester, Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials, was explaining how her vocation, archaeologist, led to her avocation, mystery author. Several years ago, Sarah coordinated a University of Illinois project, an autopsy by computer of an Egyptian mummy that was about to be displayed at the World Heritage Museum (now the Spurlock Museum). Her scholarly book about the project, The Virtual Mummy, was published by the University of Illinois Press.  But her very active imagination began creating a story about an Egyptian mummy, two murders, and an archaeologist and former museum curator who solves the mysteries. This became Bound for Eternity, the first of Sarah's four mystery books.

Sarah's interest in archaeology began while she was a Harvard undergraduate majoring in anthropology. During her freshman year, a friend told her about a summer archaeology program in Israel. She enrolled, loved it, and returned to spend her junior year at Tel Aviv University studying biblical archaeology. After graduating from Harvard with a BA in anthropology, she studied classical and near eastern archaeology at Bryn Mawr, receiving both an MA and Ph.D.

In 1982 Sarah came to Champaign-Urbana with husband Charlie, who had just completed his residency in pathology at Duke University. She worked for several years as a curator at the World Heritage Museum before moving to the ATAM (Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials) program, an interdisciplinary research unit at the University of Illinois, now part of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey. As director, she works with faculty and graduate students involved with research that "helps scholars reconstruct the history of objects and the people who made them."


Sarah and Charlie's two children, Nick and Emily, are both teachers, and Nick is also a fiction writer. Charlie, now retired and an OLLI member, is pursuing his own avocation as a mixed media artist. Sarah also paints, "for mental refreshment" she says. Charlie and Sarah are looking forward to the OLLI Alaska trip this summer. Might it inspire a new mystery?


For more about Sarah, see her web site:  "Sarah Wisseman Mystery Author and Archeologist" 

Profile: Kathleen Holden

KathleenIt doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while the stars align and experience, interest and passion come together to bring a vision to reality.  Perhaps it was serendipity, maybe it was fate. Call it what you will, but it is obvious that Kathleen Holden was the ideal person, uniquely qualified to create and set in motion the OLLI program at the University of Illinois.


But let's first go back a few years.  Kathleen started on the road to all of this as a non-traditional student, starting college at age 27, already the mother of two young children.  "I sat in that first classroom," she says, "and the sensation I had was physical.  I hadn't realized how much I missed the sheer pleasure of learning.  And there I was, feeling as if I was taking a drink of water after being thirsty for so long.  This excitement at the chance to learn was palpable."

Learning and creating programs--those activities have been at the core of Kathleen's career.  After earning bachelor and master degrees in social work, she was hired immediately by Planned Parenthood to develop an interagency prenatal program for low-income women.  She worked with area agencies and providers and created a successful program that is still operational today and run by the Frances Nelson Health Center.


After working her way up from equal opportunity officer at the University of Illinois to such positions as assistant vice chancellor, associate vice chancellor, associate provost and finally associate chancellor, Kathleen retired in 2006, just as the university received a grant from the Osher Foundation.  Recognizing Kathleen's unique skill in creating programs, and her familiarity with many university officials, faculty and academic professionals, the chancellor asked her to return and start OLLI.


Kathleen did return and began with an empty slate -- no members, no classes.  By September 2007, OLLI was offering ten classes to 200 members.  And now we have about 850 members and are offering 24 classes for the spring semester (half of which are already full).  "Our faculty love to work with OLLI," she says," because our members want to learn, want to hear what faculty have to say, and bring life experiences to the classroom." 


Kathleen's training in social work has stood her in good stead.  "What I love to do most," she says, "is to set up programs to meet the needs of people and to find different ways to make things work for them."  Her philosophy as an administrator was that people want to do a good job, and it was her responsibility to help that happen.  As one of the first high-level female administrators at the university, she felt it was her role to mentor younger women as their careers progressed.   Many speak fondly of the support she offered and have become lifelong friends.

Indeed, Kathleen has kept up with numerous friends over the years -- even those from her childhood in Vancouver, British Columbia.   As soon as she says the words "out" or "house," you know that she didn't start life in Central Illinois.  She came here in 1965 when her husband was accepted for graduate studies at the U of I. She expected to stay for nine months.   Almost thirty years later she became a naturalized American citizen, and Champaign-Urbana is definitely home. 

And the love of learning and the academic environment has passed on to Kathleen's two daughters.  Kathryn is assistant director for systems development at the University of Illinois' Housing Division.  She and husband Chris have three sons, Sean, Connor and Ian.  Diane is assistant professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville, where she lives with husband Clark and daughters Lily and Lucy.

Kathleen's background in the social services has led her to serve on many community boards, including the United Way and the Urbana Rotary Club.  She's a supporter of the Humane Society as well and has adopted numerous "critters."  Her latest pet is a three-legged rescue cat named Fabulous Fern.

OLLI has been lucky to have as its first director someone with Kathleen's creativity, organizational skills and ability to help people work together toward a common goal.  She points out that people who do really well are those who keep looking for new experiences, at whatever their age, and she feels grateful that she has been able to share the gift of learning with so many.


Profile:  Dick Koch, Budget and Finance Committee chair 


Describe your OLLI committee.   We are responsible for monitoring both revenues and expenses.  We've been fortunate to have financial backing from the Osher Foundation over the first few years to get OLLI at Illinois off the ground.  We've had phenomenal membership growth, primarily through "word of mouth."  We need to continue that growth, as it will help keep our "bottom line" solid, and, every bit as important, it will enable us to pass on the gift of OLLI to more lifelong learners.


Where did you grow up?  We lived in Chicago until I was eight years old.  We moved to Mt. Prospect, a suburb, for four years and lived in Belleville, a St. Louis suburb, for six years.

Describe your education.  I have a BA and an MA from the U of I.  Both degrees are in History.  It was my intent to get a doctorate and teach at the college level, but I went into the business world instead.

Describe your family.  Mary and I have been married for 45 years and have three adult married children.  We have 8 grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 to 23.

What do you do now?  I'm retired, but serve on three boards of directors, one of which is the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.  I also volunteer at our local pantry and with Habitat for Humanity.  I'm the incoming President of our Rotary Club as well.  When I was in the work force I was the manager of a great group of people who were responsible for the collection of $5 billion dollars of our employers' accounts receivable.

How long have you lived in east central Illinois? We moved back to central Illinois a little more than five years ago.  We hadn't lived in Illinois since 1972, but returned because both of our mothers were still alive and needed some assistance from us.

What magazines do you read?  Newsweek, Fortune, Money, Kiplinger's, AARP and Illinois Alumni.


Recommend a travel destination. We enjoy Virginia because much of our family is there and there's so much history to enjoy.  We also like New Hampshire because we have many friends there.

Describe a remarkable OLLI experience.
  Rather than picking one remarkable experience, I'd like to point out why I like the overall OLLI experience so much.  I enjoy listening to the thoughts and opinions of individuals who've "been around the block" a few times.  I'm also impressed with both the caliber of the faculty and the investment they've made to make the material interesting and relevant.

Tell a secret about yourself.
 If I told you it wouldn't be a secret any more.

Describe one of your proudest/most fulfilling moments.
  I think I'm most proud of what a wonderful job our children have done in raising our grandchildren.



Profile: Carol Kubitz, Membership Committee chair


CarolDescribe your OLLI committee.   We work with our very fine staff to keep members informed and coming back as well as attracting new adults who don't know about this great organization. Our celebrations are fun, and I have enjoyed planning and helping with those. 


Where did you grow up?  I was born in C-U and grew up on Illinois Street in Urbana. Was a wonderful neighborhood full of kids and nobody moved for years as WWII kept people in one location. I have lived in Urbana almost all my life.


Describe your education.  I attended Leal School, Thornburn Jr. High and UHS -- except for one year when I was lucky enough to travel with my parents and attend Woodstock School in the hills of northern India. Came home and, since a great university was down the street, I stayed here andgraduated from the U of I in education; I taught for many years -- before becoming a graphic artist.

Describe your family.  I met a nice young engineering student while working as a student in University Theatre. I've kept him around for 51 years. He ended up in Computer Science and was on the faculty there until he retired 9 years ago. We have a daughter, Emily, who married a U of I aero engineering student; he works for Boeing, so they are settled in the Seattle area with two tall guys who are now 18 and 20. Our son, Jim, is 3 hours east in Indiana and works for Kroger in their offices in Cincinnati. A visit there gets us very involved with 3 active grandkids -- 5, 8 and 10. It gets our blood flowing to keep up with that household!


What do you do now?  I retired from teaching years ago andbegan to do more art work. For 20 years I worked in the Artist Service for the School of Life Science as a scientific artist. When computers arrived I jumped on board and still love doing graphics on my Apple Computer. I do yearbooks and newsletters for several groups and would rather do that than housework!

What do you read?  I love mysteries and a good story -- always have a book or two I'm reading. I try to read these magazines:  Smithsonian, Whole Living, Prevention and The Week -- but I'm usually way behind. Give me a good story!


Recommend a travel destination.  I am very fortunate and have traveled extensively. I have yet to visit the Antarctic and probably won't. I now like to travel where it's comfortable and easy -- no more trips to India -- though I love that country and have been there three times. We have loved our trips to New Zealand and Australia so I would have to put those at the top of my list. We spent a week on the Great Barrier Reef on Heron Island and would highly recommend the resort there. (Talk to me before you go.)


Describe a remarkable OLLI experience.  The whole program has been remarkable for us. We pick courses Bill and I both want to attend and go together; most have been interesting and broadening for both of us. Life would now be diminished without OLLI -- there's nothing to take its place.


Tell a secret about yourself.  I like liver and onions.

Describe one of your proudest/most fulfilling moments.  My whole life has been fulfilling. I have been blessed with special friends, a good mate, the greatest family, travel and endless opportunities. I know I sound like Pollyanna, but it's all true.


Traveling West Aboard the Texas Eagle
By Barbara Meyer

EngineWhen was the last time you "enjoyed your flight"? Decades? A multi-day trip in an Amtrak Superliner is a return to the glory days of customer service, little luxuries, and leisure.


Last summer when my brother and I visited our other brother, southeast of Tucson, we took the train. The Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited was my first long distance ride, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. The backslash indicates that it's really two trains, but the transfer is effortless. The Texas Eagle leaves Chicago after lunch and arrives in San Antonio 32 hours later. You enjoy fine dining as you pass through St. Louis, spend the first night rumbling through Arkansas and the next tucked snug in bed, motionless in a quiet corner of the San Antonio rail yard.


The motion of the train leaving the station wakes you in the morning, and your sleeping car is now traveling west, hitched to the Sunset Limited that arrived from New Orleans during the night.


It's almost another day and night to Tucson. We walked to our nearby hotel around 11:30 p.m., while the remaining passengers went on to arrive in Los Angeles in the morning.


Storm cloudsTrain travel is a gift of time. Time to read to talk, to meet people if that's what you like, and time to absorb new scenery in serene comfort. Some of the images will stay with me forever:  crossing the silvery expanse of the Mississippi under a full moon over a dark, unseen bridge as the lights of St. Louis gleamed ahead; the rich purple sage blooms of the Texas rangeland; the heart-stopping drama of a high plains thunderstorm; the awe of Big Bend territory, viewed from a single set of steel rails through narrow canyons where no auto can go. Even the nights were evocative, listening for the train's warning whistle at crossings where little traveled roads wandered out of sight.


Amtrak provides a route guide that tells you what to look for along the way, like the remnants of a wall in Dryden, Texas built for protection from Pancho Villa's raiders, or an Apache Indian cave just west of Sanderson. I missed the columns of Mexican Free Tailed bats near Austin, the largest urban bat colony on the continent, darn it, but there were plenty of other fascinating tidbits to be alert for.


If yTrain tracksou're willing to incorporate some modest technology into your travel gear, Texas A&M has produced excellent MP3 podcasts, full of anecdotes, fun facts and relevant background music, for over 2000 miles of the journey. Beautifully done, they cover history, geology and wildlife, as well as biographies; one is even devoted to Mexican cooking. One of my favorites was about the U.S. Army Camel Corp, which seemed like a good idea at the time, and but for the surly disposition of camels, might have lasted much longer. Text versions of the podcasts are available for download too; you can listen to them at


Another device that enriched our trip was an IPhone GPS app that actually showed us the location of our train in real time.  This was handy for identifying towns and rivers -- no billboards or exit signs on Amtrak!


A major caveat:  a first class bedroom on Amtrak isn't cheap. It costs far more than flying and much, much more than a coach seat. Roomettes are another option at half the cost, but they don't have a private bathroom and almost no room to move around once your bed is made up for the night. Amtrak's double-decker Superliners require a steep climb to your room and down again to stretch your legs at station stops, but each car has an accessible room on the lower level for those who prefer easier access.


One benefit of a sleeper, either bedroom or roomette, is that meals are included, and they were delicious. And while all passengers have access to the beautiful Sightseer Lounge car with its domed windows overhead, you might also enjoy the snug comfort of your own room.  Our first class car was cool and serene under the blazing Texas sun and had its own coffee and juice bar as well. Each sleeper has an attendant to see to your needs and make up your bed, and if you're unable to navigate to the dining car, will even deliver your meals.


I would urge anyone to consider rail travel, to relax and let go of the notion of having to stick to a schedule. Just sit back and experience "real" travel and enjoy the ride.

You can check out the Amtrak routes here.


E-Reviews:  Your Favorite Movies

Because of the terrific response to this topic, only some of the reviews submitted appear here.  The remainder will be published in the next edition of E-Reviews.

PosterGeorge Brock - Nowhere in Africa (2001)

Spanning two continents, it is a true tale of a Jewish attorney and his family who flee the Nazi regime in 1938 for a remote farm in Kenya.  Very interesting story.

PosterJodey Schonfeld - The Namesake (2006)

Beautiful job of showing the transitions of members of an Indian academic family, wedding traditions, family customs. Really well done.

PosterRichard Gerard - In the Heat of the Night (1967)

In the mid 1960s a black Philadelphia homicide detective (Sidney Poitier) waiting for a train ends up assisting a southern small town police chief (Rod Steiger), who does not want help from an urban black man, solve a murder. It won the 1967 Oscar for best picture. Many of the scenes were shot in southern Illinois.  It's a favorite of mine because of the great acting and the interaction between the characters portrayed by Poitier and Steiger.

PosterCraig Cutbirth  - True Grit (2010)

14-year old girl hooks up with tough marshal to bring her father's murderer to justice.  This Joel-Ethan Coen version is not the same as the 1969 John Wayne-Henry Hathaway effort.  No one can match John Wayne's screen presence but Jeff Bridges does an interesting job as Rooster Cogburn.  Matt Damon is far superior to Glen Campbell in the role of the Texas Ranger, LaBoef.  The final confrontation between Cogburn and the outlaw gang is still thrilling.  The end of the movie differs from the earlier effort and is closer to the ending of the novel.  I liked this movie but still haven't decided if it's better than the original.  It's definitely worth seeing.

PosterBarbara Hartman - Departures (2008)

A newly unemployed Japanese young man decides to take a job preparing the deceased for burial. The tremendous respect with which the dead and their families were treated was not morbid but life-affirming.

PosterMary Bach - Strangers on a Train (1951)

Alfred Hitchcock thriller with two complete strangers trying to get away with murder. As part of a continuing project, I read the novel by Patricia Highsmith and then watched the movie, again.  It is interesting to note the changes to plot, etc. in movies of the 40s and 50s that are adapted from novels.

PosterAnita Hamburg - Letters to Juliet (2010)

It's a magical fairy tale, and the scenery in Italy is so beautiful.

PosterWalter Feinberg - As It is In Heaven (2004)

A world renowned conductor has to give up his career and returns to his boyhood home to conduct a small church choir, confronting the narrow rigidity of a small community.  A beautiful portrayal of love and music.

PosterBeth Matthias - The Visitor (2007)

Middle aged man loses his wife and finds connection and purpose in unexpected places.  Richard Jenkins' acting is phenomenally nuanced.  Brilliant.

PosterJan Kruse - Brassed Off (1996)

This 1996 movie of a coal mine in a northern English village that may be closing would also mean the end of the miners' brass band.  Because I was raised in a strong labor union family, this British take on the economy of the 80s and hard times reminded me of our current economic difficulties and how people might stand together in hope.


Still Time to Sign Up

OLLI classes begin again the week of January 24. Half are full, but, as of January 14, spaces are still available in the following courses:

  • Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials
  • Healthy Animals, Healthy Humans: Research that Benefits Both
  • How Humanists Define Our World
  • Illinois Architecture in Our Lifetime - More or Less
  • National Parks: What Ken Burns Didn't Tell You
  • Nature, Love and Death in the Symphonies and Songs of Gustav Mahler
  • Poetry: Yoga for the Mind
  • Psychology and Your Health
  • Singular American Jazz Voices (begins March 4)
  • Sustainability: Into the Near Future
  • Telling a Life from Different Perspectives
  • Weird Words in the Bible

Check the web site for course descriptions and availability:

An OLLI Quiz

1. How many courses has OLLI offered since the program began?

a.   87

b. 103

c. 132

 2. How many different instructors have taught for OLLI?

a. 100

b. 115

c. 120

3. How many lunchtime lectures has OLLI offered?

a. 53

b. 62

c. 71

4. How many study groups has OLLI sponsored?

a. 32

b. 46

c. 51

5. How many members did OLLI have as of the following dates? Match the dates with one of these numbers: 192, 244, 454, 595, 616, 793, 822.

a. 12/31/07;  b. 12/31/08;  c. 12/31/09;  d. 12/31/10


 For answers, scroll down to the bottom of this newsletter.


Olli Funnies

Olli Funnies
OLLI Funnies are created by David Zell.

Answers to Quiz

1--132 courses offered; 2--120 instructors; 3--71 lunchtime lectures; 4--46 study groups;
Number of members: '07-244; '08-454; '09-616; '10-822