All Life is Learning - LLA Newsletter for December 2013

December 2013

Save the Date - January Thaw

lgsnowflakeThe January Thaw is our winter gathering created so that we all can meet other members and instructors, trade books and enjoy coffee and refreshments while we talk with our old and new friends. And the way December is going we will need a thaw in early January.

We will gather at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts on Jan. 8 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. where we will have an  opportunity to find out what is going on at the KIA.  

To see more information and to RSVP for the event, visit our website at

Give the Gift of Adventure

Looking for a unique and meaningful gift for friends or family members this year?

christmaspackageA membership to the Academy of Lifelong Learning is a gift that comes with many benefits beyond the class fee discounts. And at just $35, this gift opens the door to an amazing array of travel and learning opportunities. Your friend’s membership will expire on July 1, 2015.

Call (269) 387-4200 to purchase this very special gift for someone you love.

And if you would like the Academy can email a printable certificate to you or your recipient.

Meet Our Instructors

Without instructors there would be no classes. In each newsletter we will highlight one or two of the people who teach our ALL courses. Instructors work hard preparing their classes and they donate their time and effort. Thank you instructors!

Roger and Molly Williams

Roger and Molly Williams met in the l960’s while both were graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley. Roger’s degree in chemistry led to a career with the Upjohn Company (now part of Pfizer). Molly’s degree in engineering sciences led to a teaching position at Nazareth College, and finally three decades at Western Michigan University. Now, both retired, they have the opportunity to pursue interests outside their professions.

Roger is an amateur astronomer, having built several telescopes. He is an experienced astrophotographer, gathering tiny amounts of light to create visible detailed images. Molly has increased her interest in music (handbells, hammered dulcimer), and they share an interest in English and early American community dance. Roger calls English dances for Country Dancing in Kalamazoo. Both are singers of shape note music.

They have been attracted to many Academy courses. There are no exams, no grades, and no required homework assignments, although surely the value of the class increases with the amount of effort the participants put into it. The Williamses have taken classes in history, literature, economics, political science, and environmental issues.

Molly has led Academy of Lifelong Learning classes on Women Workers in WWII and in The Energy Landscape: Thermodynamics for Dummies. Next spring Roger and Molly will collaborate in leading On the Shoulders of Giants: from Ptolemy to Newton, in which we will explore how our modern understanding of physics is based upon astronomical observations

AJ Hartman

One of our most popular, and creative, instructors is AJ Hartman. AJ teaches social studies and economics at Lawton High School, but his passion -- and his calling -- is studying and teaching ancient history.

AJ has a B.A. from Goshen College and an M.A. from Spring Arbor University. He began teaching at Lawton High School in 1998 and is known for creating his own curricula. Among his favorites are Advanced Placement History, European, Eastern Civilization, and Economics.  

He’s been teaching since the ALL began at WMU, garnering grins at our first open house with his inaugural class title: Everybody Get Naked: The History of the Roman Baths. Popular and well-attended, his ensuing offerings included Beer! We Need More Beer: The History of the Egyptian  Pyramids, and Everybody Must Get Stoned: The History of Mystery of Stonehenge.

AJ says that teaching an adult population has proven gratifying. “I’ve always loved motivated students, and those at the ALL are highly motivated. They want to learn, they want to contribute and they’re fun. Plus it is the best possible environment for learning: relaxed but focused,” he says, adding “It makes my day when I know I have a class that night. I really look forward to it. Every group I’ve had has been interactive and very interested.”

We are all waiting for his next class, scheduled for the fall of 2014: Lions and Tiger and Christians, Oh My! The History of the Roman Colosseum.

Volunteer Spotlight - Marcia Watts

The Volunteer Spotlight in this issue of the Newsletter is on Marcia Watts, one of our key volunteers on the Travel Committee. The heart of the Academy for Lifelong Learning is our volunteer group. Peggy Strong, the Chair of the Travel Committee says that Marcia has been invaluable to the committee. She serves as the secretary and has taken all the minutes.  But more importantly is her work on the various itineraries, especially for setting up the arrangements for overnight trips.

Marcia says that she learned about the Academy a couple of years ago through an article in the Gazette (remember our Kalamazoo newspaper?). To quote Marcia, “Being newly retired, I investigated further and attended one of the general information events. I signed up for a class and then indicated on an interest sheet that I was interested in travel. Peg Strong contacted me and I attended my first meeting. What really cinched the deal, so to speak, was that I had seen a special on TV (60 Minutes) talking about Columbus, Indiana and its amazing architecture. I thought at the time I would love to visit this place and, to my delight, during the first meeting, one of the suggested trips was to Columbus, Indiana! I signed on and that was my first experience in planning a trip. Judy Shamu, Peg and I worked on it, and it was a great trip to plan and one I think everyone enjoyed. I did have a moment of terror, however, when we pulled off for our first rest stop only to find it had been torn down. Fortunately the bus driver was flexible and helpful and we found a nearby truck stop.”

Marcia says the travel committee is a wonderful group to work with and, as participation in the trips has steadily increased, travelers are learning that they receive excellent value and unique itineraries.

As you can see, Marcia’s involvement as a volunteer helps make the Lifelong Learning program a success as well as finding it personally enjoyable. We always need volunteers so even if you have no idea what you might do, contact Marilyn Vineyard, our volunteer chair at (269) 387-5357. She will help you find something just for you.

Osher Request for Proposal

Several individuals have been busy in the last month responding to a request for a proposal from the Osher Foundation. Early in the Fall semester, Dr. Gaymer (Associate Provost of Extended University Programs where the Academy resides at WMU) sent a message to thank the foundation for the support provided by Kali Lightfoot through the OLLI National Resource Center. In the letter, she mentioned the success of our Academy of Lifelong Learning. A few weeks later, she received a phone call and then a request for a proposal for $100,000 which could be followed by a gift of $1 million a year later.

The Osher Foundation has funded many Lifelong Learning Institutes across the nation, and when the WMU Academy was forming, we were informed that the funding was no longer available. We are pleased to have this opportunity and have been working hard to write the best proposal ever. If the grant is received, the name of our Academy of Lifelong Learning must change to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The proposal is due in mid-January and the Osher Foundation response is expected in March.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are the heart of the Academy for Lifelong Learning. Come join us, we need you. You may work hard but you will have a lot of fun and meet new people. You may be interested in some of the following committees and tasks:
  • Instructors (without them we don’t haves courses)
  • Travel Committee - Trip planners and guides (without them we don’t have trips)
  • Curriculum Committee - Responsible for our development (short and long term) and format, instructor recruitment and assignment of liaisons for the courses. This is a large committee with two subcommittees -- a niche for almost anyone.
  • Assessment and Evaluation Committee - Plans and implements course and trip evaluations and instructor feedback used in future planning.
  • Finance and Development - Two subgroups under formation -- one for monitoring our financial condition and the other for generating revenue/resource.
  • Marketing Committee - Develops/edits/oversees distribution  of printed material and website content.
  • Membership Committee - Encourages membership and community outreach.
  • Social Events Committee - creates events like the January Thaw and the August celebration to bring members and guests together and keep “learning”.
  • Technology Committee - The committee's job is to look for ways we can use technology effectively.  You don’t have to be a “geek” to help.
  • Volunteer Services - Helps with administrative tasks -- registration, filing, material for instructors, computer data base maintenance.
If any of these, or other tasks, interest you, call program coordinator Joyce Dekau at (269) 387- 5357 or e-mail her at to request personalized follow-up about any of the volunteer positions.


Check our website - - for information about the Academy and up-to-date information about our activities.

Use the menu on the left side of the page to get to information about Courses & Trips, how to become a member or renew your membership, or how to become a volunteer or instructor.

Use the buttons below the menu to submit your comments or suggestions.

What is the Lifelong Learning academy? The Academy, now two years old, was initiated under the auspices of the WMU Emeriti Council and WMU’s Extended University Programs. The Academy offers intellectually lively and culturally appealing learning experiences. We accomplish this by focusing on intellectual stimulation, personal growth, social engagement and enrichment.

What do we do? We offer short, one day per week classes for one to four weeks. Class sessions are usually two hour long. Travel programs are also a part of our offerings. There are no tests and no required homework, just exploring lots of interesting topics.

In the near future we will offer classes in different formats -- noon hour discussions, several class sessions in one week, and more evening classes. Academy classes and activities are developed by its members with the support of the staff of Extended University Programs.

We need your ideas for class topics and instructors. Let us know your suggestions. Call Joyce Dekau at 269-387-5357 or send her an email. She will forward your ideas to our curriculum committee.


Contents of this issue:

Save the Date - January Thaw
Give the Gift of Adventure
Meet Our Instructors
Volunteer Spotlight - Marcia Watts
Osher Request for Proposal
Volunteer Opportunities

Winter/Spring Schedule Booklet

Watch for the Winter/Spring Program booklet. You will be receiving it by the end of the year. We have 29 exciting classes and nine trips planned. Some classes begin in January and others extend into May.

Join the Academy

Experience stimulating and enriching learning experiences.
Benefits of membership include:

• Discounted course fees
• Priority registration
• Discounts to Miller Auditorium, Gilmore Theatre Complex and the WMU Bookstore

Membership is $35 per year. A three year membership is $90. Learn more.

Advisory Board Members

Jo Arnold
Robert Beam
Judith Beam
Jennifer Callahan
Ron Crowell
Mary Doud
Kurt Droppers
Linda Dunn
Carol Haenicke
Judith Halseth
Marianne Novak Houston
Harold Ray
Gillian Stoltman
Peg Strong
Shirley Swanson
Pete Thomas
Bill Venema
Marilyn Vineyard
Randy Watkins
Molly Williams
D. Terry Williams

WMU Ex-officio Members
Janet Hahn
Bob Miller

Extended University Programs
Dawn Gaymer
Joyce Dekau

New Members
Two new members have joined the Advisory Board:

Kurt Droppers comes to the board as a community member. He is a financial advisor and is very active in Kalamazoo.

Randy Watson is our new representative from the Alumni Board. He is retired from the State of Michigan and lives in Lansing. He is an alum of WMU, of course.

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