Electronic Newsletter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- February 2012

In This Issue
Meet OLLI's New Director
OLLI Greets Its New Members
Instructor Spotlight: Mike Reed
The Glass People
Giving to OLLI
Confused By Computers?
E-Reviews: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem
Did you know?
Olli Funnies
Quick Links
OLLI Events Calendar

OLLI Illinois Home Page

Study Groups
Lunchtime Lectures

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

Chris and Kathleen

Meet OLLI's New Director: Christine Catanzarite


Chris at her deskShe was watching the Johnny Carson show and found herself enthralled by his guest -- someone
with a Master's Degree in Popular Culture.  Learning that there was such an academic field (definitely a new one in the '80s) changed the trajectory of her life and ultimately brought Chris Catanzarite to Illinois and OLLI.


Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Chris had a love of theater, film and "organizing things" from an early age. She thought she might be an actress and, after two years at Allegheny College, switched to the University of Pittsburgh where she got a degree in Film Studies, English and Theater. She changed her focus when she learned that she loved writing about films more than being in them and thought about becoming a film critic. Fate, however, took her to Washington, D.C. after college, where she worked as associate director of meetings and membership for the Association of General Merchandise Chains, a retail-oriented international trade association. Her "organizing things" skill surfaced as she planned and managed annual conventions and educational conferences in cities all over the country. Interacting with so many different people and supervising the logistics of complex events was stimulating and great fun -- until that fateful night watching Johnny Carson.


It was then that Chris realized that she missed the excitement of learning in the classroom and decided to pursue post graduate education. So she did her research, found Bowling Green University, the only institution that had a program in Popular Culture, and got her Master's Degree there. She stayed for her PhD -- in American Culture Studies with an emphasis on Popular Culture, because they did not have a PhD program in Popular Culture. While at Bowling Green, she taught film and television (including, yes, the study of Johnny Carson!), along with survey courses about American popular culture.  And in exploring other aspects of American culture, she became the national expert on the High School Prom (an area that had, up until then, received scant scholarly attention).


With doctorate in hand, Chris moved to Illinois State University and taught film and theater history for five years. In 1997 she came to Urbana to help establish the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. This interdisciplinary institute provides grants and stipends to faculty and graduate students to assist in their research and hosts a multitude of conferences, reading groups and speaker series.  As its founding associate director, Chris has planned and managed numeruous conferences, symposia, and speaker series; and she has a wide ranging network throughout the UIUC community - an asset that will serve her well as she develops programs for OLLI. 


Love of film and its history (Hollywood during the studio era is her specialty) permeates her career and her personal life. She has organized and hosted a long-running film series with screenings at the Krannert Art Museum and has curated two film-based exhibits there - one on images of women in Hollywood posters and promotional materials, and another on movie set designer Harry Horner, who created the sets for The Heiress and Our Town. The exhibit even included the Oscar that Horner won for The Heiress, provided by his wife. That, says Chris, was one of the thrills of her life - actually to hold an Oscar!  (With movie-awards season upon us, OLLI members will soon discover her enthusiasm for the Oscars and their history!) She has also developed and chaired several academic panel discussions that take place during Ebertfest.


Chris' vocational life meshes with her private one.  She loves movies and watches a lot of them.  She is also a fan of all things related to her hometown of Pittsburgh: the museums (the Andy Warhol Museum is her favorite), the sports, the food, and the rich history. She visits her family there frequently and speaks fondly of her parents and her brother (a successful businessman) and sister (an Emmy Award-winning TV producer who has worked for PBS and now has her own production company) - and her fun and interesting niece and nephews. For "off time," she loves museums and historical societies, reading, cooking, and visiting some of her favorite places: New York City, Las Vegas, and the Jersey Shore (not the version depicted on the reality show, but the real one, with salt water taffy and frozen custard!).


Coming to OLLI is a high point in Chris's personal and career life. "As a past OLLI instructor, I have really appreciated the excitement and vigor of the discussions," she says; "and it's wonderful that OLLI is a community that extends beyond the classes themselves.  Kathleen has created a space that is intellectually and socially rich and diverse. I look forward to getting to know the members and keeping the positive momentum going."  



New Member Event
From left to right:  Tom Kovacs (Instructor), Denny Steger, Carolyn Steger, Sharon Scott, Mary Ellen Dorner, Delora Siebrecht, Laurie Geeseman, Jean Weigel.
Instructor Spotlight: Mike Reed

Mike and Dudley
Mike and Dudley

"We have a terrifically fun time in class," says a smiling Mike Reed. "I learn as much as the students every day." "They're motivated, capable, fun...everybody comes expecting to have a good 'play' tai chi." Listening to Mike talk about his teaching experience at OLLI, it is not at all surprising that his tai chi classes, offered every semester, are always full and receive high marks in the evaluations.


Mike was born in Indiana, but has lived in Champaign-Urbana most of his life, attending Champaign schools and the University of Illinois where he majored in accounting and world religions. While there, he studied and began to practice Raja yoga, perhaps a preparation for his study of tai chi that began in 1998. For many years he took classes at the Center for Tai Chi Studies in Champaign. Finding "it really resonated with me," he enthusiastically accepted his teacher's invitation to assist with classes.


During this period he was also significantly involved in Dr. Yang Yang's doctoral research in the UI kinesiology department which focused on tai chi's benefits from a qualitative and holistic perspective. Mike says this work reflected and amplified his personal interest in finding as wide an audience as possible for tai chi in hopes that it would someday find its place in Western cultures as a valuable complement to more familiar forms of exercise. In his teaching, he has integrated exercises and ideas developed by a number of tai chi and qigong teachers, but has also developed original exercises designed to make the tai chi form more accessible. In addition to the classroom instruction provided at OLLI and at the Savoy Recreation Center, Mike's students have access to the Web site he has created, acting as writer, director, cameraman, editor, web master and star.


While Mike is passionate about teaching tai chi, he has other interests, talents and skills. From the age of seven until about fifty, he played guitar and sang professionally in the area, describing his repertoire as Hit Parade. Even at seven, he booked his own jobs and negotiated his pay, and still feels that his music experiences are a big part of his personal identity. He sees mirrored in tai chi the rhythm and flow of music. For many years he has been an accountant for a local business.  And his self-proclaimed do-it-yourself remodeling skills, first used to rebuild several rental properties he owned, have now led to his hobby, restoring and rebuilding (more than once) the older home he and his wife Donna bought when they were married thirty years ago.


Mike glows when he speaks of Donna and their son Matthew. Donna, a speech language pathologist in the Champaign schools, and Mike were childhood sweethearts but did not marry until in their thirties. "He's the man!" Mike says of Matthew, now a first year resident in family practice at South Bend Memorial Hospital.


Another person whose mention brings a broad smile to Mike's face is Alethea Taylor, his co-teacher in the OLLI classes. "We work really well together," says Mike. "She is integral to the success of the classes." And success, according to Mike, is measured not only in the observable physical improvements in students' balance, their testimonies to improved emotional, mental and physical health and less anxiety about aging, but also in the fun everyone, including Mike and Alethea, has in the class.


The Glass People: Jon and Judith Liebman


The Liebmans
Photo by Larry Kanfer

Do OLLI members have spare time? Not if they're like Jon Liebman.


That frequently asked question of retirees, "what do you do with your time?" is no problem at all for Jon Liebman. He's been much too busy exploring, promoting and teaching about one of his passions, glass art. He has just completed curating the show, "Contemporary American Glass from Illinois Collections, Fifty Years," on view at the Krannert Art Museum through April 29, 2012.


Jon and Judith Liebman, both retired UIUC professors of engineering, are noted collectors of glass sculpture. Starting with the acquisition of their first glass sculpture in 1986, the Liebmans became passionate students and collectors of glass art. Krannert exhibited much of their personal collection in 2005. Theirs is definitely a joint interest; Jon and Judith have a rule that they must both like any piece they acquire. Judith emphasizes that the task of curating the Krannert show, however, was totally Jon's responsibility.


What exactly does curating a show involve? Jon began by drawing on his knowledge of the fifty-year development of the field and his familiarity with the leading artists and collectors in the field. He is a past president of the national Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, and Judith is a current board member. Jon is also on the Board of Directors for the Pilchuk School in Washington State, a leading center for the training and development of glass artists.  


Jon found himself in competition with a half dozen other museums in the upper Midwest for pieces, since multiple commemorative exhibitions were being planned. He visited noted collections in the Chicago area, choosing pieces that he felt "demonstrate incredible diversity and techniques," as well as aesthetics. Sculptures from local collectors Joy Thornton-Walter, John Walter, Terri Weissman and from the Liebman's own collection are also included.


Pieces selected for the show reflect some of the Liebmans' criteria for judging any sculpture. One looks first for perfect workmanship and considers whether the object is a really good example of the artist's work. Beauty often enters into the equation, "but not always," said Jon. The Krannert show includes multiple pieces by some of the artists, giving viewers the chance to see the development of their work.


That many of the 18 artists chosen for the show have Illinois ties is not surprising. Three of the first few collegiate level glass programs were located in Illinois. While the UIUC program is now defunct, studios continue at Southern Illinois University and Illinois State University. Sculptors William Carlson, Jose Chardiet and David Huchthausen are just a few of the prominent artists with ties to these programs.


Jon is again teaching the popular OLLI class on glass art. While the history of glass goes back thousands of years, glass art in America, as opposed to commercial or utilitarian usage, is a relatively recent development; its birth can be traced to 1962 when Harvey Littleton, a professor of ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, set up a small glass blowing workshop where friends could learn glassblowing techniques. This unleashed the creativity of glass artists and led to the development of the American Studio Glass Movement, notable for its close association with academic art departments. The Liebmans note that a good resource for information about the glass art movement can be found at  


The Crouses in AlaskaGiving to OLLI

We have been supporters from the beginning because we wanted the educational/social outlet that OLLI promised to deliver. 


By providing wonderful classes, study groups and group trips, OLLI has grown rapidly. We cannot bear the thought of ever losing it. 


Therefore, we decided to make our financial contribution to help ensure that it will be here for everyone forever......

Shirley and David Crouse

To make your own online gift to OLLI go to:



Confused by Computers?

Attachments, downloads, web browsers, email, online registration, online catalogs, ebooks -- do you still find all of this a bit confusing?  Well you're not alone, and both the Urbana and Champaign public libraries are anxious to help.

Cardholders of the Champaign Public Library can "Book a Librarian" to receive up to 30 minutes of personalized help from library staff. Learn to use the new CU Catalog, Microsoft Word, email, or Facebook; download ebooks; use online tools such as Mango Languages; or use a scanner. Sign up at the "Ask Here" desk on the second floor, or call 403-2070. 
The Urbana Free Library offers two choices, and you can sign up for one or both. "Computers 101" is a free monthly class, or you can ask for one-on-one sessions customized to your needs. The monthly class as well as the individual assistance are provided by volunteers; call 367-4405 to find out more and/or to make a reservation. Additionally, the Flex-N-Gate Computer Center on the 2nd floor of the library has several senior workstations equipped with large-screen monitors if you need one. If you'd prefer to use your own laptop during your training sessions, you can do that too.


E-Reviews:  Murder, Mystery and Mayhem - Part 1


We asked our members to recommend a book or series of books about M, M & M. Here is the first
part of the long list of responses that we received. A second set of recommendations will be published in the next edition of OLLI e-News.



Steve Bauer

Kemmelman is the author of a series of eight books featuring Rabbi David Small, who uses a combination of human insight, logic and deduction to help police solve mysteries in an unusual way. His books also include a bit of Jewish culture or lore and humor. There is enough life-or-death tension, at least for murder suspects, but none of the gore or mayhem.  



Morton K Brussel

Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo is a gripping police story that takes place in the city that the author loves. It blends intrigue and a commentary about life in Marseille (a must for those intending to visit Marseille) especially among those at the lower end of the status scale. Pessimistic, but about some of the finer things that still make life worth living.




Cleora D'Arcy

Anyone who has enjoyed a visit to Sanibel or any of the nearby Florida coastal islands should read the series of mysteries by Randy Wayne White that are set in that locale, beginning with Sanibel Flats. White's protagonist is Doc Ford, a marine biologist with a mysterious past as a government agent that often catches up with him. If you are interested in the islands, boats, fishing, and/or marine creatures you'll learn a lot as Doc Ford and his miscellaneous cast of supporting characters unravel each mystery.



Nancy Diamond

In the 17th volume of the adventures of a mid-fourteenth century physician and fellow of Michaelhouse, Cambridge,  Matthew Bartholomew and companions travel to York to preserve title to a disputed legacy. Their efforts are compromised by a missing manuscript, crossbow bolts, poison, spring floods and French spies.  (Susanna Gregory. Mystery in the Minster. Sphere.  2011)



Mary Ellen Dorner

I have been enjoying the Aurelio Zen mysteries by Michael Dibdin, familiar from the Zen character from several PBS Masterpiece programs.  I have especially enjoyed the mysteries set in Venice, but some are in Rome and in the south. People who have enjoyed Italy travels and who like a good police-crime story will find much to admire here.



Georgia Green

I am enjoying the Joe Gunther mysteries (Pick: The Ragman's Memory) by Archer Mayor. If you require graphic sex and violence in your mysteries, these are not for you; I enjoy the psychological portraits and the local details (they are set in Brattleboro, VT). Mayor lives near Brattleboro, and was a longtime investigator for the police department there.


Alice Hadley

Diane Mott Davidson of Evergreen, CO writes wonderful "culinary" mysteries that take place in the fictitious town west of Denver called Aspen Meadow. Her sleuth, Goldy Schulz, is a caterer once married to an abusive husband (a handsome gynecologist nicknamed "The Jerk" by both Goldy and her best friend Marla, who was also once married to him).  Davidson has written 16 delightful and absorbing mysteries, complete with recipes, from Dying for Chocolate (1990) to Crunch Time (2011), which, when read in chronological order, reveal her own path to happiness raising her son and finding a new life with her second husband, police detective Tom Schulz.


Anne Heiles

A relatively new Victorian-era mystery series that I've been enjoying is by Charles Finch, a graduate of Yale and Oxford universities. Think of a cross between Anne Perry and Walter Arnstein, with a modicum of gore, some love interest, and lots of interesting historical and political explanations. The books are best read in order, and the pacing improves with each -- A Beautiful Blue Death, The September Society, The Fleet Street Murders, A Stranger in Mayfair, and this year's A Burial at Sea.



Bev Herzog

For those of you who have been to Alaska and like mysteries with a strong sense of place, I recommend the Kate Shugak (a very strong woman) mystery series by Dana Stabenow. It was recommended to me by the owner of an Anchorage bookstore about ten years ago. I really like getting to know the characters and culture as much as I enjoy the who-done-it aspect of this series.





Lenrose Jahiel

Nevada Barr, a national park ranger, writes gripping, well-crafted, literate who-done-its with  interesting characters. Each is set in a different park, with interesting descriptions thereof.  Very enjoyable.



Jim Kearns

Stuart Kaminsky wrote a series featuring Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov, Russian policeman set in a time spanning the fall of Communism -- honest cop, with an NCIS-type small squad (by which I mean quirky, not sexy) of aides. Terrific description of life in Soviet Russia, especially. He has to solve the crime, without irritating the powers that be or the Secret Police.





Mary Carroll King

I have just found M. C. Beaton mysteries, featuring a woman of a certain age.  Funny, light mysteries with a setting in the English Cotswold.



Jan Kruse

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is a series of books about the traditionally built Mme Precious Ramotswe, a cunning proprietor of the only ladies' detective agency In Botswana.  These mysteries are smart, sassy, amusing and will often either shock or touch the heart of the reader. A sensible yet cunning detective and an exotic setting with quality writing make for a most enjoyable mystery reading experience.



Carol Kubitz
I have enjoyed Lisa Scottoline's books about inspiring female characters involved in intriguing thrillers -- many of them about female attorneys. The author keeps readers in her grip. She is sharp, funny and intelligent, and it's hard to put her books down.  



Linda Lebie

Louise Penny's style is much like that of the classic English murder mystery writers -- gentle and engaging. In her series, featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the homicide division of the Surete du Quebec, Louise Penny creates interesting environments, characters, and murder plots. I want to visit the village of Three Pines.




Cheri Sullivan

The city of Venice provides the backdrop for Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries. The novels are cleverly plotted, and Brunetti is a gentle yet compelling character who struggles to see justice done in a system that demands many compromises. Leon's fans are glad she's a prolific writer -- there are 20 books in the series (soon to be 21!).



Did You Know?            

In the fall of 2007 OLLI offered 11 classes; in fall 2011 we had 28.


In the fall of 2007 we had three noon-time lectures; in fall 2011 we had nine.


And Study Groups? In fall 2007 we had just two; in fall 2011 OLLI members could choose among 17.




OLLI Funnies  


Heartland Comic 

OLLI Funnies are created by David Zell.