OLLI offers 50-plus crowd classes, much more

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 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

The Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning could be the school people dreamed about in their youth. Imagine getting the chance to help select the subjects, schedule plenty of fun field trips and special programs such as wine-tasting and making party mints.

The University of Alabama Gadsden, UA in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville are the only OLLI sites, and the Gadsden Center staff is excited about the new membership year for OLLI.

Craig Scott has been involved with OLLI for years as an instructor. His position as adult programs director at the Gadsden Public Library – which offers several computer classes– made him a natural when OLLI Coordinator Randy Holland was looking for a volunteer to teach OLLI computer classes.

“When you think about it, (OLLI) members are a perfect clientele for the library, too,” Scott said. “OLLI’s target audience is people 50 and older and their spouses – a perfect audience for us.”

Some of the computer classes are conducted at the library, giving Scott an opportunity to share some of the libraries resources with adults. Scott also teaches geneaology, with classes for rookies or more experienced researchers.

After a few sessions, many of the OLLI members had taken the computer courses they wanted to take, so Scott said he ventured into teaching some other course subjects.

One of the most popular is “Books to Movies’ – a class that had members reading and book then watching it’s cinematic equivalent. Scott said they’d then compare the two, and talk about whether the film captured the themes of the book, whether the filmmakers botched it or improved upon the book. Scott said the class brings some good exchanges, good debates because sometimes people come away from reading the same book or seeing the same movie with a different idea.

Showing this fall: The Last of the Mohicans, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Shawshank Redemption and To Kill a Mockingbird, Scott said, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the movie’s release. This fall, the class will be called “Movie’s Great, But Have You Read the Book,” Scott said, because members decided they want to watch the movies first, then read the books.

The change illustrates one of the unique features of OLLI. Members help develop ideas for courses they’d like to explore or possibly offer instruction in.

A highlight of OLLI courses is “Armchair Travel,” which invites members who’ve taken a trip to give present their photos, souvenirs and the knowledge they gained of the place, its culture and attractions.

“At the end of the class everyone who presented a trip brings food from that place and they share it,” Scott said. “Everyone enjoys that.”

Presenters will be Alice and Greg Cusimano, Galapagos Islands; Fran Hindsman and Gloria Rieves, Highlights of Australia and New Zealand; Jim Jolly, The Beauty of Beijing; Gretchen Corker, Exploring Transylvania; and Linda York, The Glory that is Greece.

In addition to courses that meet multiple times, there is Wednesday weekly bonuses, offering a single topic for one afternoon. One of those sessions this fall will feature UA-Tuscaloosa history instructor Richard Rhone, Scott said, with a sure-to-be-interesting program about Daniel Boone titled “Go West, Young Man.” Scott said Rhone has done video presentation – sometimes dressed as the historical figure he’s talking about – but will be live in Gadsden for this bonus.

Other bonus topics include Edgar Allen Poe’s Life and Works, Titanic, The Mason-Dixon Men and The Lads from Liverpool, with Etowah Youth Orchestra Conductor Mike Gagliardo.

Other weekday topics include art, jewelry making, Renaissance Discovery, “Southern Scrumptious,” with JoAnn Ray, history, World War II, and Profiles in Courage – four sessions with a veteran sharing experiences in different conflicts.

Field trips will include a trip Sept. 21 to the Amish community in Etheridge, Tenn., a Rome, Ga., riverboat excursion Oct. 5, a production of “Driving Miss Daisy” Oct. 11, a visit to Helen Keller’s Ivy Green and the Rosenbaum home in Tuscumbia Oct. 19, and an EYO performance Nov. 4.

And there is Dutch treat dining Sept. 25 at Zorba’s in Cedartown, Ga., Oct. 16 at the Bright Star in Bessemer, and Oct. 30 at Classic on Noble in Anniston.

Membership in OLLI is $50 per year, with multi-year enrollment options. Weekly bonuses, field trips and special offerings are included in the membership fee. The Fall 2012 Course Registration Fee is $50. The fall session begins Sept. 17 and ends Nov. 4.

For more information about OLLI, please call 256-546-2886.

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