Issue No. 61
June 2015
The MSCN Newsletter

Welcome to Your June Newsletter!

I have a 'colorful' newsletter for you this month with two interesting articles and some news items from the network.

Sunrise Senior College reports on an entomologist's revision of the past with "The Role of Insects in World History." And, Midcoast Senior College has sent in a fascinating article about Roosevelt's trusted advisor  Frances Perkins.

Gold LEAF shares a chatty activity update while Lewiston-Auburn Senior College has submitted two items. One is a celebration of their first ever art exhibition and the second item tells of their very colorful MSCN member and instructor, Charles Plummer receiving a truly unique honor!

insectsSunrise Senior College: The Role of Insects in World History
Napoleon, defeated by the body louse?

This spring the Sunrise Senior College offered a new class titled "The Role of Insects in World History." We take it for granted that insects provide us with silk, honey, and even dyes while also fulfilling many irreplaceable ecological roles. If we pause to consider how great an impact these seemingly insignificant animals have on the course of human events, we stand to be amazed! The flea threw Europe into the Dark Ages. Yet, the very same flea species saved the Jewish nation from annihilation by the Philistines. Napoleon may not have been defeated in Russia by the cold winter or the Russian army but rather by the body louse. Cricket fighting brought down a 200 year-long Chinese dynasty. The Cotton Bowl Weevil intensified the Great Depression, but it is also honored in the Southeast for forcing a change to a more diverse agriculture, resulting in a stronger economy. Honey bees did not only produce the first sweetener for Egyptians they have also been used throughout history as biological weapons. 

Dr. Mark Brown (see photo), our course presenter, was a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 25 years and taught Biology and Environmental Sciences at Hood College in Frederick, MD.

Dr. Brown expanded on all of the above topics during his fascinating classes. "Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects" by Amy Stewart supplemented the 5-week lecture series. 

This highly recommended book offers information on all of the insects Dr. Brown discussed and many others. Insects were categorized by Ms. Stewart as painful, horrible, deadly, dangerous, or destructive. Participants were introduced to the African "Bat Bug" and worked their way alphabetically to "Zombies", creepy insects that inhabit other insects!

We look forward to more of Dr. Brown's very interesting and frequently humorous observations about the world and how insects help and hinder agendas. If you have the opportunity, come and listen to one of his programs the next time he offers a course for Sunrise Senior College.


Submitted by - Jackie Lowe, Sunrise Senior College
First ball of the Spring Season at the Portland 
Sea Dogs Thrown by Charles Plummer, LASC Member and Instructor

Charles Plummer  dressed as General Joshua Chamberlain.
Charles Plummer, Lewiston-Auburn Senior College member and instructor, was invited to throw the first ball of the spring season at the Portland 
Sea Dogs game May 21 in the persona of Civil War Union General Joshua Chamberlain. The event was in commemoration of the end of the Civil War when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

The game, held on May 21, was played against the Altoona Curve of Altoona, PA. The score was 
4 to 1, favoring the Sea Dogs. Plummer is well-known through Central and Southern Maine for 
his living historical presentations of Civil War figures. 

Submitted by - Rachel Morin, Lewiston-Auburn Senior College
Gold LEAF Institute Represented at Encore Leadership Conference

Gold LEAF has a brief entry for the newsletter this month and we would like to share two items with you. First of all our summer booklet has come out and registrations are flowing into the office. Secondly, representatives of Gold LEAF Senior College attended this year's Encore Leadership Corps Summit.

The Encore Leadership Summit, held every May, is open to its members, all of whom are over 50 and doing terrific volunteer work around the state of Maine. This year's Summit provided us with great information and many useful tips, including an excellent workshop titled "Getting the Most From Your Meetings" run by Barbara Kates with suggestions on leading efficient and satisfying meetings. Especially of note was a visit to the VEMI Lab at UMaine which is working on several projects that will keep seniors safe in the homes and on the road. 

Gold LEAF Senior College wishes all the MSCN colleges a very busy and fun summer. May your registrations be as steady as ours!


Submitted by - Eileen Kreutz, Gold LEAF Senior College

FirstArtLewiston-Auburn Senior College holds First Annual Art Show

Carol Hanscombe's self-portrait drew many appreciative comments.
(Photo by Rachel Morin)
Lewiston-Auburn Senior College held its First Annual Art Show on May 4 open to family and friends. The exhibit, sponsored by the Senior College Board of Directors, drew a large attendance and was very favorably received. The art show included pencil drawings, watercolors, acrylics and oils by the pupils taking art courses over the past few years in the Sr. College curriculum.

Submitted by - Rachel Morin, Lewiston-Auburn Senior College

Midcoast Senior College:
Let Us Now Praise.... Frances Perkins

Midcoast Senior College recently offered a course on
The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, the first woman ever to serve on a U.S. presidential cabinet. She served under Franklin D.Roosevelt. The course was presented by Michael Chaney, the Executive Director of the Frances Perkins Center in Newcastle, Maine and Leah W. Sprague, a retired justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court. She is also writing a book on women in the judiciary.

"I see one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill- nourished," President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared in his second inaugural address Jan. 20, 1937. And with "tens of millions of its citizens" still denied the "necessities of life" despite all the reforms and emergency relief legislation enacted during the "Hundred Days" in 1933, widespread unemployment and poverty persisted. Much more needed to be done, and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman in any presidential cabinet, had taken Roosevelt's words seriously long before FDR dramatized these seemingly intractable economic problems.

Perkins had been one of the president's longest serving advisers, starting with FDR's two terms as governor of New York. In her book of reminisces about her association with Roosevelt, The Roosevelt I Knew, Perkins maintained that FDR came to "understand the problems of people in trouble" after confronting his own crisis when stricken with polio in 1921. It might be more accurate to say that after his affliction he developed a humility and an open-mindedness and greater capacity to learn about the problems of ordinary people. He became sensitized to their needs. FDR's understanding of these problems was due in large measure to Frances Perkins. She became, first in Albany and then in Washington, his educator in chief on issues of labor relations and more specifically on the dire living conditions faced by working men and women during the Great Depression.

Roosevelt came into office with no preconceived master plan for ending the Depression and held traditional, rather conservative economic beliefs. His ideas on public spending on relief projects were distinctly cautious. On the other hand, he was pragmatic and willing to experiment with whatever might work. He did not let preconceived prescriptions interfere with the need for decisive action. Being practical meant not sacrificing the peoples' immediate needs for the sake of some greater ideal, no matter how laudatory. FDR knew Perkins was committed to alleviating the plight of the working classes and came to trust her judgments and political instincts in drafting social legislation and lobbying Congress. She told him in 1934 it was high time "to be farsighted about future problems of unemployment and unprotected old age."

With unemployment still woefully high, Roosevelt did not need to be convinced. In fact, his enthusiasm for grand, universal relief and economic security, what he called "cradle to the grave" insurance, had to be tempered at times by what was feasible. Perkins told him any proposals had to be based "upon a practical knowledge of the needs of our country, the prejudices of our people, and our legislative habits." She realized quickly that FDR's desire to include a national health insurance plan would not survive politically.
"Powerful elements of the medical profession were up in arms over the idea of any kind of government- endorsed system," she wrote in her memoir.

Perkins was at the center of the two most important proposals of what came to be known as the Second New Deal: Social Security and unemployment relief. The essential role she played in developing the recommendations that led to successful enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, which also included the first national program of unemployment insurance, are well documented. She was also influential in the advice she gave the President on the Second New Deal's jobs programs, the most important of which was the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Roosevelt appointed Perkins to chair a special Committee on Economic Security to draft the legislation on unemployment insurance and an old-age pension program, which became known as Social Security, as well as the measure that established the WPA. She said her role was like 
"driving a team of high-strung unbroken horses."

The law that made possible the WPA appropriated what was at that time the largest peacetime spending act in U.S. history - almost 5 billion dollars. In the view of the President and his advisers the amount had to be on a scale large enough to get millions of men and women back to work. Small, piecemeal relief had been tried earlier but was inadequate to cope with the magnitude of the crisis. To make a difference in the unemployment rate - which reached 25 percent in 1933, vast sums of money were necessary. It was the Emergency Appropriations Act of 1935 that funded the WPA (the law itself gave the President authority by executive order to establish the agency).

Over its eight-year life, the WPA employed some 8.5 million Americans. The WPA projects are usually thought of today as construction jobs. Massive numbers of workers were employed to build highways, dams, airports (such as LaGuardia in New York City), post offices, sewer systems, and the like. The WPA, however, also employed hundreds of writers, journalists, musicians, actors, artists, lawyers, archivists and other professionals in four Arts Projects known as Federal One. Harry Hopkins, when asked why white-collar workers were given employment, observed, "Hell, they've got to eat just like other people." Of the 5-plus million workers on relief in early 1935, about 11 percent were white-collar workers.

At its peak, the Writers' Project (FWP) alone employed 6,686 men and women. It had the greatest impact of the Arts Programs. It's guides to each of the then 48 states, plus the District of Columbia, Alaska and Puerto Rico and to the major cities and a host of smaller municipalities as well as oral histories are still read today and remain the best reference source to many of the states.

Perkins' long and devoted service on behalf of Franklin Roosevelt, her knowledge of working class issues and, more importantly, of the people themselves, and her shrewd assessment of the political landscape of 1930s America were invaluable skills that made possible the success of much of the New Deal and is reflected by the fact that of the President's original cabinet members only she and Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes remained throughout the Roosevelt presidency.

Written by - Michael Wormser. This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of The Midcoast Inquirer

Submitted by - Joyce Bessen, Midcoast Senior College


Additional Resources and Information
Do you have itchy feet? Entertaining ideas of traveling to see more of Maine or the World?

Here are a couple of ideas that have been sent into the MSCN office that might be of interest to your Senior College. The first is for The Maine Tour Connection

The second is the Road Scholar program which specializes in "educational adventures" in the US and Canada as well as Internationally.


Newsletter Submissions Deadline Date: 
The 26th of each month!

Please submit your articles and photographs to Anne Cardale at


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WPA's Federal Art Project PosterCourtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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In This Issue
Don't forget to go to the Maine Senior College Network website to find out what is happening around the state!

Maine Senior College Network

Acadia Senior College

Augusta Senior College
Coastal Senior College

Downeast Senior College

Gold LEAF Institute

South Coast Senior College

Midcoast Senior College

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Penobscot Valley Senior College


Senior College at Belfast

St. John Valley Senior College

Sunrise Senior College 
Western Mountains Senior College

York County Senior College
MSCN Promotional Videos

Maine Senior Guide is a comprehensive web resource about all things senior that provides "one stop shopping" for Maine's seniors at the link below: 

Contact Information
Maine Senior College Network 
P.O. Box 9300 
Portland, Maine 04104-9300 
(207) 228-4128


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