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Sun, Dec. 15

OLLI: Where to keep active and learning after retiring

Art Smith takes his OLLI students on a virtual visit to Spain and Portugal.

Art Smith takes his OLLI students on a virtual visit to Spain and Portugal.

Who is OLLI? What is OLLI? Why is OLLI?

For enthusiastic learners OLLI is the next big step. OLLI is a family, and fills a nice niche. It is even better than Facebook.

This past week, Art Smith presented the “Music of Spain and Portugal,” using classic recordings and videos to demonstrate 800 years of music from the Iberian Peninsula at the video classroom on the Sedona Yavapai College campus. The program ran for four days, from 10 until noon for four days and ended Thursday with some tasty treats for every participant.

Art lived in Spain in the 1980s and traveled extensively in both countries sampling its music along the way.

Also on tap this summer is Joe Stack’s “Ranking the Presidents: Presidential Leadership and the Constitution.” Joe Stack is a retired HR manager who specialized in leadership training.

Joe also has a rich passion for history.

Joe and Kit Stack moved from Seattle to Cottonwood in 2007 and joined in with “News and Views” a weekly discussion of current events, originally led by Ron Mattson in Sedona.

“No news is off limits. The goal is to be able to listen to others who may have opposing viewpoints and respond in a civil manner. Often when politics is discussed, people are yelling at each other and not listening. This is to have a civil discourse.”

“OLLI is designed so that facilitation is not supposed to be an instructor being a ‘talking head’ for 90 minutes,” continues Joe. The idea is to have small class sizes, so participation is not intimidating.

“One of the most interesting classes I have taken since college was poetry writing with Ann Metlay,” Joe recalls. Ann is doing Suppertime Poetry Field Trips this summer from 6 p.m. until 7:30 in various locations conducive to poetry.

Director Natalia Molina McKendry says Bernard Osher believed that mature adults should get the joy of learning without the threat of tests and books; just learning for the sake of learning. She would like to see OLLI get out of the classroom more often for more social interaction such as chess or bowling and at evening hours, so that some retirees, still working, could participate.

To prepare for the future, explore “Tarot for 2012.” William Dewhirst has been teaching metaphysics for 30 years.

Sy Brandon, a composer, poet, author and retired professor of music, will facilitate “Big Band Era” for four weeks to be held at the Beaver Creek School District Board Room.

“I moved here three years ago and saw something in the Independent that talked about an OLLI class about Yavapai-Apache culture to be held at the Yavapai Community Center. I attended and I was hooked,” admits Sy.

He says, “There are two things about OLLI: You can take classes without worrying about grades and tests and then there is the variety. This fall, we have 100 different offerings. You gotta find something that gets to you.

“The people are excited about learning and excited about life. When you get older, it is easy to sit in front of the TV. OLLI is not like that. There are people that are excited about learning and meeting other people.”

The Osher Life Long Learning Institute –just call it ‘OLLI’—is actually a membership organization that gives a place and opportunity for mature adults to share and learn.

The Osher Foundation, based in San Francisco, established the system to encourage peer learning and experiential opportunities among retirement-aged adults. Bernard Osher is a philanthropist who contributes to encourage education and the arts.

The OLLI program was established only during the last 10 years, but has grown to establish 116 institutes affiliated with universities and community colleges across the US. In Arizona, OLLI is hosted by the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and by Yavapai College.

McKendry says, “Students like a lot of variety of classes and the menu is whatever the community would like to offer. I hear a lot of requests for the hard sciences, philosophy, politics, astronomy, the high arts. At the same time, we get a lot of requests for metaphysical classes: Tarot card reading, palm reading, dream analysis. We run the full range. Coming up in the fall, we have a lot of history classes.

“Occasionally, we will have surprises, some classes only for men, or only for women. One of the most popular classes we have had is dance like Jane Austen, period dancing.” McKendry recalls.

McKendry herself is interesting. Beyond her administration of the self-directed membership organization in Sedona and the Verde Valley, she is something of an athlete. She was recently ran the Boston Marathon, one of several she completed. That reflects on her personal history. She was born in the United States, but her parents emigrated from Guatemala first to Boston for education and for work. Her parents settled down in Bethlehem, Pa., the hills of which reminded her father of Guatemala.

Natalia is proud of her Hispanic heritage and personally, encouraged the Mexican Consulate to make a field trip to Sedona to help documented and undocumented Hispanics with their legal paperwork. They saw 500 people in a single day.

To explore more about OLLI http://www.yc.edu/v4content/lifelong-learning/olli/olliverdesedona/ or call (928) 649-4275.

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