Electronic Newsletter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- May 2012
A Message from Director Chris
My first day at OLLI earlier this year was also the first day of the spring semester - a flurry of new people and places and classes and routines. I left the office that January evening buoyed by the excitement and exhilaration all around me, and eager to get back to work the next day.
In the three months since, I have experienced so many new things: students pouring out of classrooms at the end of class, chattering enthusiastically about the day's topics; bursts of laughter (and even a few show tunes) echoing through the hallways; instructors raving about the lively discussions and thoughtful questions from their students; the vigorous exchanges among our member-led Board of Directors, committees, and sub-committees. I have benefitted greatly from Kathleen Holden's generous advice, and from the patience, skill, and good humor of OLLI's dedicated staff, Janet Summers and Brenda Deaville. Most of all, it has been a joy to spend my days in the midst of such a vibrant, exciting community. The tapestry of friendly faces that I encountered on my first day has become, over time, hundreds of individuals with fascinating stories to tell and talents to share.
There have been some administrative concerns, as there are in all jobs - and chief among them has been the recent decision to increase OLLI fees in the coming year. This increase was not undertaken lightly, and everyone involved in the decision was adamant that the increases should be as modest as possible, to keep OLLI at Illinois accessible for the broadest possible audience. It was a necessary move that will help us to keep OLLI fiscally sound as we continue to enrich the lives of older adults in our area with courses, study groups, and many other activities. Plans for next year are taking shape, and we will be announcing them soon. I think you will be as excited about them as I am, and I look forward to more great adventures and new experiences in the year ahead.
Several years ago, when I first met with Kathleen to talk about teaching at OLLI, she told me that she had the best job on the University of Illinois campus. After nearly four months in the role of OLLI director, I am delighted to report that she was absolutely right.
|Travels with OLLI|
With the summer almost upon us, upcoming travel plans are a hot topic in the hallways and classrooms at OLLI. Some will be taking the OLLI-sponsored trip to Istanbul and Venice this month; some will be heading for adventures in far-flung places; many will be taking trips to visit family and friends in destinations both near and far.
Wherever you go (even if it's a "staycation" at home with cold drinks on the patio!), we hope that you'll take a little bit of OLLI with you: we have reusable shopping bags with the OLLI logo available in the office for only $2. They are a handy and environmentally friendly way to tote your souvenirs and beach towels and whatnot - and the OLLI logo makes them look especially nice!
Here is the fun part: while you are enjoying your summer, take some photos of yourself holding your OLLI shopping bag, in front of some of the interesting sights you are visiting, and send that photo to us at email@example.com (or drop off a snapshot when you get back from your travels). We will then post a photo essay on our website, showing all of the exciting things that our OLLI members did on their summer vacations!
We hope you'll want to participate in this project - whether you are standing in front of the Grand Canal in Venice, Wrigley Field before a game, Lincoln Center before a performance, or in your backyard playing with your dog, snap a photo of yourself with a little bit of OLLI in the picture. We wish you safe and happy travels, wherever the road takes you!....Chris
|Instructor Spotlight: John Frayne
"It's wonderful to teach here...such a great group of students. They have opinions, life experiences, and want to talk."
John Frayne will teach his fifth OLLI course this fall, Great Detectives II. He admits that, always a busy man, he declined the first invitation to offer a course. However, after hearing how enthusiastic OLLI members were about the program, he accepted the second invitation for the spring 2010 semester and has taught every semester since.
John's is a familiar name, face and voice in Champaign-Urbana. You may have read his reviews in the News-Gazette, seen him at a variety of performances, or heard him on WILL-FM. If you graduated from the University of Illinois, you might even have been in one of his classes as an undergraduate or graduate student.
This remarkable man was born in New York City. His parents emigrated from Ireland, went back for a year during the depression when John was a baby, but returned to Manhattan where he grew up. He claims an ordinary boyhood...a happy kid playing stickball on city streets, loving baseball and reading more comic than classic books. He loved movies, went all the time, and listened to the radio, including Your Hit Parade.
However, he says he was marked early as an "intellectual." He hung around the local library and drove the librarians crazy asking questions. At 14 he fell in love with classical music and in high school became seriously interested in English literature and modern poetry. He did some acting in high school and at Fordham University where he was an English major. As a freshman he started working at the college radio station doing a weekly opera show and hosting a weeknight evening concert program and, on Saturday mornings, a review of What's Going on in New York City.
After college, John served two years in the army, then returned to New York City and briefly managed a new classical music record store on the lower East Side before enrolling in Columbia University's graduate school English Literature program. It was here that he met Eva, his wife of 54 years, who was teaching German.
John says his big break came when he discovered an uncollected group of William Butler Yeats' journalistic writings. They became the topic of his PhD dissertation and were eventually published in two volumes. As a result of this, in 1960 he was offered a faculty position in the English Department at the University of Illinois where he taught courses in modern English literature and pioneered teaching film studies. Although he officially retired in 1997, John continues to teach English courses in the Campus Honors Program.
In the late 1970s the WILL-FM program director asked John to review area opera and theater performances, thus beginning John's more than three decade tenure at the station. His role expanded from reviewer to host of several programs, including Saturday morning's Classics by Request, Classics of the Phonograph, and Saturday Afternoon at the Opera that continue today. In 1990 John again put on his reviewer hat as he began writing performance reviews for the News-Gazette.
An inveterate collector, John began collecting LP records at 14 and now admits to having more than 20,000 records and CDs, primarily classical music and opera. And then there are his books - literature and music - "in the thousands."
John's wife Eva has taught in the Humanities Department at Parkland Community College since it opened in 1967. Together they have raised two sons: Henry, a musician and composer who has performed here and abroad, and Patrick, a financial analyst. In the 1970s John and Eva bought what John describes as a seaside cottage in Maine where they continue to enjoy several restful weeks each summer reading, listening to music, and "haunting the Maine Coast library sales."
| Instructor Spotlight: Helaine Silverman
This coming fall OLLI will once again have the pleasure of a course taught by Dr. Helaine Silverman, this time on Tales From The Crypt. Helaine, an archaeologist by training, teaches in the Department of Anthropology where she holds the rank of Professor; she is also the director of CHAMP/Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy, a campus unit dedicated to research and teaching about heritage and museums around the world. All CHAMP events are open to the public, and Helaine invites OLLI members to visit the CHAMP website to learn about its activities.
Helaine worked in Peru for many years, investigating a civilization called Nasca, known worldwide for the mysterious markings traced on a desert plain by the ancient inhabitants of the region.
Eventually the notoriety of the geoglyphs became more interesting to her than the precolumbian society that had produced them, so she began to study the appeal of the past in the present, how nations manufacture their heritage for consumption on the world stage through tourism, the way that archaeological heritage is managed on the ground and represented in museums, and how different groups make competing claims of identity through reference to real and imagined history.
Helaine dealt with these issues in her first OLLI course in fall 2010: Mysteries of the Ancient World - Cultural Heritage of the Modern World.
Her current fieldwork is ethnographic. She spent 2003-04 in Cuzco, Peru, the former capital of the grand Inca Empire, which was toppled by the Spanish in 1532. The contemporary city of Cuzco is a palimpsest of sequential architectural modifications, the most recent being Inca-style monuments erected throughout the historic district by a creative mayor. Helaine interviewed a wide range of Cuzqueños to understand their sense of identity as descendants of the Incas and the role that the built environment plays in their construction of self, as well as attitudes toward tourism, both the engine of Cuzco's economy and the source of great change in the city.
After Cuzco Helaine went to Southeast Asia where she has been examining similar issues of cultural heritage, identity, memory and tourism from a comparative perspective, mostly in Thailand, where she is particularly interested in an ordinary town in whose center stand the reconstructed remains of the one of the greate
st of ancient Khmer temples. Thailand wants it inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but the local people have no interest in the ancient site and, indeed, fear the changes that could occur in their lives if Thailand is successful.
After spending five years in Southeast Asia, Helaine has returned to Peru to continue her research in Cuzco and to expand into the Sacred Valley nearby. This is the stretch of fertile land along the Urubamba River that contains a series of outstanding Inca sites culminating in Machu Picchu, arguably the most spectacular of all archaeological sites in the New World. The Sacred Valley is undergoing dramatic changes through rapid economic development related to tourism. Helaine led a UIUC study abroad program to Cuzco last January and will repeat that trip next January with a new group of students.
| Giving to OLLI |
I have been a member of OLLI almost from the beginning, and it has become a very important part of my life. In addition to the courses and study groups, I have met so many wonderful and interesting people and have made new friends.
Life in Champaign-Urbana would be greatly diminished without OLLI. Therefore, I decided to make a contribution to ensure that it continues and grows.
To make your own online gift to OLLI go to:
E-Reviews: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem - Part 2
We asked our members to recommend a book or series of books about M, M & M. Here is the second in the long list of recommendations.
One of the most talented authors currently writing crime fiction must be Louise Penny. The first title in her Three Pines series is Still Life, set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec. Penny has created wonderful characters, brilliant plotting, and a place her readers can't wait to visit - not to be missed.
Donna Leon writes a series that should be read sequentially to get the full flavor of Venice. Commissario Guido Brunetti's relationship with his family and co-workers, and his enjoyment of food is delightful.
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child create riveting thrillers that keep me awake at night until I can finish them. Among my is Cabinet of Curiosities, which weaves 19th New York City history, a serial killer that can't possibly exist, forensics and archeology - all centered on an exceedingly creepy house with its "little pair of eyes". Refined, pale, and with exquisite tastes, FBI special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is a worthy successor to Sherlock Holmes
I highly recommend the Ian Rutledge series written by Charles Todd, a mother-son duo, who flesh out the procedural aspects of their stories about the Scotland Yard detective with social details and historical facts about England after WWI. While working on his cases, Rutledge has to cope with the psychological consequences of his Great War service as an officer in France and the occasional lack of support from his superiors.
I enjoy mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is set in Botswana, and The Sunday Philosophy Club series and the 44 Scotland Street series (my favorite) are set in Scotland. I also have read all the mysteries written by Margaret Truman and by Agatha Christie.
I am enjoying the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery novel series by Louise Penny. There are seven books in the series, set in the French Canadian province of Quebec, beginning with Still Life, and the most recent being A Trick of the Light. The author says "more than [terror], more than murder, more than all the rancid emotions and actions, my books are about goodness... kindness... choices... friendship... belonging... enduring love."
If you've missed Our Man in Havana, the classic mystery by Graham Greene, you've missed one of the truly funny and tender, yes tender, foundations of the genre. One story line is Greene's exaggerations of every aspect of the spy game. The other, understated, even sparse, is the tale of a middle-aged man trying to make a human connection and save his lonely soul.
Ruth R. Rains
I would like to recommend an unlikely "thriller/mystery" - unlikely because it is non-fiction. Worm, by Mark Bowden, is the story of a group of computer experts who discovered, and did all they could to counter, the most horrific and threatening of computer viruses to date, "conficker." It is not only a riveting read but, as reality, it has some very important implications.
Winter Study by Nevada Barr is a great, rollicking murder mystery that takes place on Isle Royale in midwinter. Tied in with the real 50-year wolf population study ongoing there, the story is about a cast of fictional scientists who must brave the snow, ice, and bitter cold to track and discover which of their party is a cold-blooded murderer. More twists and thrills than a long toboggan ride down a bumpy mountainside.
I still enjoy rereading Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers. It's true J.R.R. Tolkien couldn't stand the young Peter (or Harriet Vane), but he didn't like the Narnia stories of his friend C.S. Lewis either.... De gustibus non disputandum est.
I have read all of John Grisham's books, and I recommend the latest, The Litigators. It starts a little slow, but soon becomes a "page turner." The locale is Chicago, so it will click with anyone familiar with the city.
The author, Xiaolong Qiu, is a professor living in St. Louis. The setting of his books is modern day China with a detective as the leading character. The series, the first of which is Death of a Red Heroine, includes plenty of political intrigue and tension between the characters to be very engaging as well as a little romance and an introduction to historical and modern-day features of China.
The Drowning River by Christobel Kent is not quite up to Donna Leon, but her fans will enjoy this mystery set in Florence during one of its wettest winters. Inspector Cellini's recently opened private detective agency is suddenly faced with two cases that may or may not intersect: one involves an English student, the other an Alzheimer's victim. Wonderful atmosphere of a non-touristy Florence and well-drawn characters.
The 17 books by Elizabeth Daly, featuring Henry Gamadge, were written between 1940 and 1956. Gamadge, a specialist in rare books and manuscripts, lives in New York City. He is not unaccustomed to mysterious death.
Stealing Mona Lisa by Carson Morton is an unusual historical thriller based upon the true story of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. The protagonists are a con man, an art forger, and a young female pickpocket, who plan the heist, and the plot is full of unusual twists and turns. The novel is well-written, atmospheric, and thoroughly enjoyable.
I only need one sentence to recommend this book. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is filled with so much mayhem, murder and mystery that it will probably take you all summer to finish reading every one of the 973 spellbinding pages (paperback edition).
New Mexico? London? Closer to Home?
We Have the Trip for You
The OLLI travel sub-committee has been diligently working on a diverse menu of travel options. Its goal was to (1) promote trips with an OLLI advantage, i.e. with an educational component and to encourage OLLI member networking; (2) offer both domestic and international travel; and (3) offer some trips with a low price point. We are on our way to fulfilling all of these goals. Prices, dates, instructors involved in each trip, and further details will firm up as we work with our tour group planner. But it's not too early to start making your plans for some of these.
Yet this year:
A trip to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in Bloomington, IL this summer sometime between June 26 and August 11. A lunchtime lecture to discuss the play and the festival will precede the trip. Approximate cost: $95, which would include transportation, tickets, and a picnic dinner.
In 2013 we are hoping to offer these trips:
Led by Fred Christensen, a week in New Mexico to view and study its multi-cultural heritage. Spring or summer. Approximate cost: $2850.
A week in London with an emphasis on its vibrant theater performances. Spring or summer. Approximate cost: $3600, which would include tickets for up to five shows.
Chicago Jazz Festival, led by Sam Reese. Three nights with a class session each day and performances in the evening. August 2013, Labor Day weekend. Price to be determined.
Attend the "Book of Mormon" in Chicago and see what everyone is laughing about. This Tony Award winning musical is sold out on Broadway for eternity, but thankfully it is coming to Chicago in 2013. We are looking for Wednesday matinee tickets for next spring. Approximate price $160, which includes tickets.
The Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL accompanied by Guy Fraker. Spring. Approximate cost: $50.
In 2014 we are hoping to offer these trips:
New York Theater Tour. This 4-day, 3-night trip would include two shows. Spring, summer or fall. Approximate cost: $2000.
Ideas for other trips are always accepted. Send your suggestions to Chris Catanzarite, firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Our Playground for the Mind: Kathleen Offers a Brief History |
The campus was awarded its first Osher Lifelong Learning Institute grant (in the amount of $100,000) in July 2006; [editor's note: and that fall Kathleen was asked by Richard Herman to organize an OLLI for UIUC]. Between September 2006 and September 2007 Janet Summers and Brenda Deaville were hired, and with the help of a few outstanding volunteers led by Anna Merritt, our first Board Chair, we formed the OLLI Board and a few key committees. In addition, we drafted the bylaws, recruited faculty to teach courses, bought furniture, and moved into our first space in the Research Park.
Because of campus financial support and continuous growth in membership and programs - much of it due to the efforts of our OLLI members - the Bernard Osher Foundation awarded us additional grants in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and then in 2010 we were awarded a $1M endowment.
Just look at our growth: In September 2007 we had 297 members and offered 11 courses; there were no study groups. In January 2012 we had 1007 members and offered 29 courses; this spring we have 18 study groups. Moreover, we have an astonishing number of lunchtime lectures, as well as a very active travel program and, most recently, the innovative Citizen Scientist Program.
Moving to our current, larger space in 2010 made much of the growth possible ... and now we have another milestone to celebrate. I retired in January and am enjoying being part of this wonderful playground. Our terrific new director, Chris Catanzarite, brings fresh energy and new ideas. Our future is assured.
Why has OLLI grown to be such an important part of our lives? I think the most important factor is that it is owned by all of us, the members. From decisions about who will serve on the board and committees to the cost of membership and range of courses, study groups, travel destinations and lunchtime lectures ... we decide.
Our decisions built - and will continue to expand - this welcoming community of people who are excited about learning together in an intellectually stimulating environment. Congratulations to all of us!
| Membership Renewal and Course Registration |
Fall Semester course descriptions will be listed on the OLLI website on May 21. On this date, members will receive an e-mail with detailed instructions about the registration process.
Course registration for the fall will begin on June 6.
We encourage you to renew your OLLI membership by June 1, so you will be confirmed in the system before registration begins. To renew your membership (or to join OLLI as a new member), please visit our website at http://olli.illinois.edu/membership.php.
|Needed: Books, Books, Books |
Your OLLI Lending Library could use some new books - fiction as well as non-fiction. We ask that your donated books be in good condition and that you place them on the shelves in the lounge, not on any of the tables. Periodically we will donate any "overstock" either to Books for Prisoners or to one of the local public libraries. Thanks, and happy reading!