Take Me Away, OLLI!



We were in our seats and waiting for “takeoff,” but this was different: So many of the “passengers” seemed to know one another! In fact, I had seen a friend at the doorway. We had chosen seats next to each other and were catching up.

A studious looking man came around the seats and stepped up to the podium. No, this was not a limited-space airliner, but an auditorium in the McKimmon Center of NC State University. For just ten dollars, I was about to “travel” overseas, and hear fascinating stories and unparalleled information about the archeology of Petra, the anthropological UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place most likely created in the fourth century BC. With the aid of photographic technology, I would see pieces of human existence from the settlement that took place at Petra, and hear a lead instructor of the dig tells us the Petra story!


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10 Good Things About Getting Older

10 Good Things About Getting Older


I’m kinder and more confident, and best of all, I like myself more.

Well as the author says there are many more than 10 when you sit down to think about it – we would love to hear from readers on your favorite things about getting older too! But in the meantime we are sharing this positive, inspiring article first published on the website lifereimagined.aarp.org  Click on the link below to read on………

10 Good Things About Getting Older

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More Than Volunteering

 In this posting, OLLI member Phoebe Johnston interviews OLLI Advisory Council chair, Carol Rahmani

When I asked my friend Carol Rahmani for a little of her time to sit down with me, she didn’t hesitate.  For OLLI she is always available.  Carol is a longtime resident of Raleigh, retired public school psychologist and administrator, alumna of NC State, and irrepressible NC State sports fan.  We members of NC State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, (OLLI), formerly known as Encore, owe immeasurable thanks to Carol.

It looks like you are enjoying retirement. Do you feel you owe that in part to OLLI? I am a naturally busy person, and my career didn’t use up my energy, nor my desire to be of help to others.  I love being useful, and since I fell in love with OLLI, have also loved being a volunteer with the program.

We at OLLI are an enthusiastic bunch.  A class or lecture at OLLI often has a retired or current NC State or other university instructor in front of the room.  Many times though, the class leader is someone who simply has a love of the subject, and has become expert.  For instance, a former Chairman of the Raleigh Area Council of Churches inspired us with stories about Rosa Parks and Desmond Tutu.  A retired engineer shared his love of Volcanoes and Their Impact on Civilization.  All instruction and lecturing is on a volunteer basis and at OLLI we are never captive to a limited topic area.  For example, if you take Music of the 60s, you learn modern musical history,  musical form,  music appreciation fundamentals and hear stories about the musicians themselves.   That means we are very passionate, student and presenter alike.

For you, Carol, OLLI volunteering is a natural extension of your career in education.  Tell us how OLLI all started for you.   I have lived in Raleigh since I began college here, and had never known of the lifelong learning program until I was close to retirement age, when a close friend who had already retired enticed me with stories of things she learned and did at OLLI (Encore).  “These are fabulous courses; you’ll love everything!”  she would say as she gave me details.  During early retirement, my time was consumed with family needs but as soon as I could, I jumped right into OLLI  with both feet.  Right from the start I made new friends.   I’ve lived in Raleigh most of my adulthood, and enjoy a broad array of friendships,  but there’s always room for more.  My OLLI friendships have continued to grow, and have continued to enrich my life and my experiences of OLLI.  It’s hard to express how important friendships are for a retired person, and especially one who is single.

The OLLI catalog continues to expand.  Every semester, there is a list of courses and lectures that spark interest for things I never thought I would be attracted to.  It is very hard to choose just a few! They range from literature and philosophy to photography, theater costuming,  financial planning, and on and on.  This wide range of courses,  lectures and study trips is generated by the OLLI Program Committee.

Carol, you are the Chairman of the OLLI Program Committee.  The very busy and dedicated Committee members bring together ideas for courses, lectures and study trips with instructors and semester schedules.  How is this done a daunting three times a year?   Success in reaching our goals takes many people – members, member volunteers, and the phenomenal four staff members of the OLLI Program . The two greatest challenges are: 1. continuing to involve more members and 2. expanding the course roster to accommodate membership growth.  I am proud to have been involved in a reorganization of the Program Committee’s processes that implemented seven subcommittees focused on broad topic areas.  We had looked at models from other Osher programs, and through working with our knowledgeable and dedicated staff members, the seven-subcommittee method was adopted.  Our very broad age-range (50 to 90+ -– two generations) and resulting range of interests are well-served by our current course-development processes..  The Program Committee and the staff have together become a well-oiled machine, and we have no doubt that the future of our course offerings will be extraordinary.

Opportunities for member involvement are not limited to the Program Committee.  A member can be a part of many other committees or have other tasks within the program.

Over your years in OLLI (Encore), Carol, you must have had some favorite classes, study trips or lectures.  I am a lover of history and other subjects that fall outside my career area of expertise.  OLLI provides opportunities to study such topics that I enjoy through courses such as the Civil War Sesquicentennial Series and associated study trips.  I’ll describe one of my favorite instructors.  OLLI was more than lucky to have had a retired Army colonel and a very passionate military historian become one of our dedicated instructors, not only for this five- year Civil War series, but also for other historical reviews of wars that have been formative in our nation’s (and the world’s) history. Our trips that accompanied some of the courses and were led by our military historian engaged us more thoroughly than any other kind of  tour we could ever have taken.  I never learned so much and had so much fun doing it!

What do you have to say to age 50plus Raleigh area residents who are not yet acquainted with OLLI?         I would have to say first that this is not just learning through attending classes!  OLLI means new friends, new life experiences, and endless stimulation.  OLLI taught me how satisfying it is to step outside my comfort zone by taking courses I might not have been drawn to in college or grad school.  There are no grades, no mandatory reading, no tests.  A member can be part of a number of interest groups, a book group, a writing group or more. There are even parties and social events! 

NC State’s OLLI Program is part of a network of 100+ Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes across the country, of which there are four in North Carolina.  We have something for everybody!  Look us up at http://www.ncsu.edu/olli.

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Memories of the Outer Banks

What a fascinating OLLI-NC State study-trip to the Outer Banks in April! On our first day we were treated to a fine excursion out to Corolla, the northern-most point on NC’s coast. The paved road ends and a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is needed to drive out in search of the descendants of the Spanish mustangs whose blood-lines date back to the 1500’s and still inhabit the beach. The wild horses were out in large numbers for us-we saw around 50 of them! WOW! Afterwards we visited the Whalehead Club, Sea Turtle Research Center, and the Currituck Lighthouse. A few of us climbed the 220 steps straight up to the top of the lighthouse. The views of the ocean and sound from the top are stunningly beautiful. Another WOW! Then the focus of our trip turned to Wilbur and Orville Wright’s great feats, and their early work accomplished at Kitty Hawk that culminated in their (and mankind’s) first flights on Dec. 17, 1903. Many of us had taken Jim Clark’s OLLI course based on McCullough’s book “The Wright Brothers.” Our visit to the Wright Memorial, Kill Devil Hill and the site of their flights provided the biggest WOW of the trip!

Carol Rahmani – OLLI Member and Chair of the Advisory Council


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Memories of Cordoba, Spain

A bridge dating back to the Romans, a water wheel built by the Moors, a synagogue dating from the Middle Ages – these are only a few of the delights we discovered in Cordoba. The city is located on the Guadalquivir River which in Roman times was navigable all the way to the Atlantic. That is no longer true.

The city itself is a charming maze of narrow streets occasionally offering a glimpse into private courtyards, the whitewashed walls of which were adorned with hanging pots from ground to roof. How do they ever keep them watered in summer temperatures we were told reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

The highlight of our visit was the magnificent mosque cathedral. Its towering interior arches were decorated with alternating stripes of white limestone and red brick, the builders (beginning in 785) were the original recyclers, re-using Roman capitals.

The history of the region is one of successive religions. Thankfully the mosque was so beautiful and well-built that the thirteenth century conquering Christians added a cathedral in its center rather than demolish.

We said goodbye to Cordoba’s Bougainvillea draped walls with regret. One could spend days wandering through it and still scratch only the surface of its incredible history.

Barbara Brown (OLLI member) who recently returned from an OLLI study trip to southern Spain and Portugal.




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A Successful Baby Boomer’s Life of Lists and Leadership

Full disclosure – I am re-blogging this article from boomercafe.com, an online magazine featuring numerous links and articles aimed at baby boomers. It caught my eye because it confirmed that the simple act of list-making can be one of the secrets of success. My husband is a great list-maker. Every weekend I am in awe and slightly envious of his ability to extract the most from his non-work days by making a list and getting stuck into it as soon as he rises. Meanwhile I will be wasting precious time toying with the idea of several projects trying to decide what to do first. I can learn a lot from him and from Richard Branson – let us know your thoughts. Are you a list maker?

Joan Hardman-Cobb (Special Programs Coordinator)

A successful baby boomer’s life of lists and leadership (boomercafe.com)
Sir Richard Branson is a baby boomer we can all admire. He has created everything from Virgin Records to Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Galactic. He is one of the world’s most successful and likable corporate leaders. So, we hope our boomer brother Sir Richard doesn’t mind if we share his short essay, “New Year’s Resolutions and making lists.” We figure, if it’s good enough for him … it’s good enough for us! Over to Richard………..Richard Branson

Ever since I was a young boy I have made lists of goals and resolutions. It’s how I make sense of the ideas in my head, the suggestions I receive, and the progress we are making. What’s more, if I didn’t write down all of my ideas and resolutions, I might forget them!

Here are 10 simple steps for making a list that you will be able to stick to:

1. Write down every single idea you have. No idea is too small, and no idea is too big either.

2. Always carry a notebook. You need somewhere to write your ideas down, and while using a folder on your phone is better than nothing, a piece of paper is far more memorable.

3. Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts, what suits you best? I find a combination of short phrases and scribbled pictures works best for me.

4. Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day. Cut your day up into chunks, and you’ll get lots more done.

5. Mark off every completed task. There are few more satisfying things than ticking off a job well done.

6. Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working. There’s no point setting targets if you don’t know if you are hitting them.

7. Set far off, outlandish goals. Resolutions shouldn’t just have short-term endpoints. What do you want to have achieved in five years’ time? How about 50 years?

8. Include personal goals in your lists, not just business. There’s no real separation between work and life, it’s all just living. The same goes for lists.

9. Share your goals with others. You can help motivate each other further and hold each other to account. But remember that, in the end, you are doing this for yourself.

10. Celebrate your successes then make new lists of new goals. The cycle should continue as you make more and more progress. I have boxes and boxes of old notes, filled with old lists, and I’m busy making more.

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Walking Where My Ancestor Fought and Died 151 Years Ago

Capt WarnerStudy Trip to the Petersburg National Battlefield (October 7, 2015)

Walking Where My Ancestor Fought and Died 151 Years Ago

 Many of us in OLLI are history buffs, and take virtually every history course offered.  A favorite series and instructor for so many of us have been the courses and study trips led by Dave Milidonis in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.  The final event in this five-year-long series was the October 7th trip to the Petersburg National Battlefield, which has been preserved to memorialize the nine-month siege of the city by the Union Army, in its quest to take Petersburg as the gateway to seizing Richmond, which would surely result in an end to the long and bloody Civil War.  For the Confederates, holding Petersburg was vital in their desperate efforts to maintain control of their capital, Richmond, and avoid certain and immediate defeat.

In his typically riveting, detailed and no-holes-barred teaching style, Dave led us from one battery and fort to the next in Petersburg’s 30-mile battlefield site, culminating in a visit to the Crater.  Though not as massive and deep today, there is still a large pit where the Union forces had exploded a powerful mine under the Confederate entrenchments in an attempt to breach their line of defense and break through into Petersburg.

Some weeks prior to leaving for the study trip, I had told Dave that my great-great-grandfather had served in a South Carolina unit that was engaged in the Confederate defense of Petersburg, and that he had been killed there.  I asked Dave if he would be willing to research where in the expanse of entrenchments my ancestor’s unit might have been on November 5th, 1864, when he was fatally wounded.  Dave graciously, even enthusiastically, agreed to look into the military records and told me the information he would need about my great-great-grandfather’s unit.  I sent him all the information I could put together about Captain Jacob Warner of South Carolina’s Holcombe Legion, Elliot’s Brigade.  Within a few hours, Dave emailed me detailed information about Jacob Warner’s unit—that he had served in Johnson’s Division, 4th Corps.  He had discovered that Cpt. Warner’s unit was at the site of the Crater on July 30th, 1864, when the mine was blown, and that 700 men in his unit had died in the explosion.  Those who survived engaged in a counter-attack against the invading Union troops, resulting in massive casualties on both sides.  The Confederates, led by troops from S.C., held the Crater and patched the break in their lines.  Cpt. Warner had beaten the odds and survived the carnage in July, but his luck ran out on November 5th.   On that fateful day, he was ordered to lead his men on a night attack against a Union picket line that had been dispatched close to the Confederate lines.  It was in that fire-fight that he was fatally wounded, and he died the next day.

When we were there on the battlefield, in the vicinity of that night attack, Dave wove the story of my great-great-grandfather’s mission into his discussion of the battles.  He pointed to a line of trees about 200 yards away and just outside a fort where the attack unfolded, and told us that was the approximate location where Cpt. Warner would have been fatally wounded.   I was not the only one of our group who was fascinated by Dave’s riveting portrayal of the events; I could see that we all were.  Several members told me later that hearing my ancestor’s story had made it all so much more vivid and real.  Dave is a master at making history come to life; at transporting us to the time and place we are studying. DM

For me, this discovery about my great-great-grandfather’s mission and location when he was killed was captivating and emotional.  You see, since I was a teen-ager, I have felt a special fascination with him.  When I was about 16, I learned that my grandparents had copies of letters that Jacob Warner had written home to his wife throughout the war.  They had never mentioned the letters because no one in the family had ever expressed an interest in him before me.  I eagerly read each one of them.  They told of his love, his sacrifice, his extreme hardships over the course of the war and the unraveling of the Confederacy (no pay, holes in his boots, frayed  uniform, ammunition shortages, a serious scarcity of food), and they told of his dreams of returning home to resume their lives after the war.  Instead, he died at Petersburg on November 6th, 1864, at the age of 39.  The war finally came to an end five months later.

My grandparents also had a portrait of him in his uniform, a copy of which is at the top of this blog.  Knowing what he looked like had always made him more interesting, more real, to me.  So, history buff that I have always been, after reading his letters, I pondered and ruminated about him and his participation in that tragic war.  I often felt disappointment and disillusionment in him, for getting caught up in the paranoia over “northern aggression” and the Confederacy’s extreme bravado and delusions of grandeur.  In his case, like most Confederate soldiers, his participation in the war had nothing to do with a personal attachment to slavery.  He had no slaves.  What he had was a wife and seven children!  His youngest daughter, my great-grandmother, was only a year old when he went off to the war, and grew up not remembering her father or having him in her life.  His wife, my great-great-grandmother, had to run their farm and take care of all those children without his help, not to mention endure loneliness and hardship over the subsequent three decades that she lived without him.

Yet, I know that people are products of their times and the events that shape their lives. In Jacob Warner’s case, I learned that he served the cause that he believed in with valor, and gave his life for it.  It was a profound experience for me to learn how and where he died, and what his experiences had been at the Crater and in the months prior to his death.  It brought some closure to my ponderings.  I am deeply appreciative to Dave Milidonis for leading me on this journey of discovery to Petersburg.

Carol Rahmani (OLLI Member)

October 30, 2015

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Such knowledgeable “Gadgets” instructors!

Doug Hall, one of the instructors for OLLI’s “Gadgets” course,

FullSizeRender (4) shows off a robot car made by his family members in the basement of their home. Pictured on the right is fellow instructor Tom Price.

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Scenes from OLLI’s Gadget Class

OLLI member Julia Daniels reports from OLLI’s Gadgets Course with Tom Price and Doug Hall:

Great class!!
Today was an excellent explanation of the navigation systems used by our GPS as well as the navigation apps in our smart phones. They were compared and contrasted.
The second half of the class was a demonstration of the various forms of lighting used in our households:  from  incondescent to LED.  I suspect most of us headed to Home Depot after class to replace all the bulbs in our homes!
FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (3)IMG_1388
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OLLI Members: So many stories to tell!

Often I pause for a minute or two in the dining room, the place where I fold clothes and we entertain at Christmas, to walk other paintingalong the stones in this painting.
 It’s a quiet fall afternoon, crisp and freshly cleansed by rain, awash with the sweet embrace of flowers crowding the walkway.
That’s the feeling that swooshes over me every time I fold a towel or pass a dish to my kin.
There’s another painting:  It’s a picture of noisy intersections of bright ideas and opinions and points of view, some as succinct as a bouquet of perfectly petaled daisies, others as scattered as wild grass, all framed by respect for one another.
This is our OLLI Discussion Forum, a gathering of some fifteen to twenty souls twice a month, first and third Mondays, all filled with life experiences and hard knocks as varied as wine notes.  They are the bouquets in the painting, large and colorful.   Most had it relatively easy, growing up pretty. A few were jerked up from the ground hard with little money, but with love and never a bitter tear.  And others in between.
This is a smart bunch.  They have stories that curl your hair.  They tell tales that break your heart.  They’re proud of their kids and grandkids, or not, and had parents who loved them, ignored them, indulged them, taught them, shaped them.  Some had careers that centered them, encouraged them to grow.  But all have lived to tell their stories and do so eloquently.  And I love to listen to them.  And I relish telling them mine.
And express and chat and argue and push we do, we colorful bouquets who impress each other with our colors and shapes and brainy bounty.  Twice a month.  First and third Mondays .  All year long.
OLLI Member Tim Hoyt
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