Duke's Osher Courses Tap Into Documentaries, Dance and Duke History

Preview what's ahead in OLLI's 40th anniversary year

OLLI classes in the winter session include a look at documentary films, journalist Walter Mears on American politics and Duke Chapel.
OLLI classes in the winter session include a look at documentary films, journalist Walter Mears on American politics and Duke Chapel.

Celebrating its 40th year, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke will offer more than 135 courses during the winter semester beginning on Jan. 8, including classes linked to contemporary political and ethical issues and the popular “Symposia: Scientific Excursions and Diversions at The Forest at Duke” featuring several Duke faculty speakers. Registration opens on Dec. 5.

OLLI at Duke's other fall offerings range from “Art, Religion & Ritual: Foundations of Asian Culture,” to “Contemporary Issues in Sports,” from “Joyful Healing Dance” to “Supermarket Chemical Magic: Chemistry to Amuse Grandkids Using Stuff from Supermarkets.” For the full list of January-March courses, including four evening and two weekend offerings, click here.

The program is part of a national network of more than 120 campus-based chapters. Volunteer instructors share their expertise and passions in courses from art to literature and technology to politics. There are no tests, papers or grades. The classroom environment is casual and relaxed.

The unofficial theme for the 40th anniversary celebration is “redefining the way the Triangle views retirement.” OLLI Director Garry Crites observed at a festive convocation in September that OLLI now comprises a group of world-class instructors offering a “continuing education worthy of the Duke name.” He said OLLI members are still dreaming as they seek to build programs and serve all of the Triangle region, including under-served neighborhoods.

Two classes center on Duke history. Lois Pounds Oliver brings her experience as head docent at Duke University Chapel to her “Building Duke Chapel” class, covering the history of the transition of Trinity College into Duke University. The focus is on the building of a Gothic chapel in the center of the new campus, with emphasis on the stories of the designer, the builders, and the artisans. In the second course, Duke University Archivist Emeritus William (Bill) King will teach “Homegrown: Durham’s Dukes -- the Family and the University,” offering insights into how the campus fits into the Duke family’s long history of philanthropy.

Alan B. Teasley, a retired teacher in the Durham Public Schools and a longtime member of the selection committee of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, offers “The Road to Full Frame: A ‘Behind-the-Screens’ Journey to the 2018 Documentary Film Festival.” Sessions are designed to prepare you to either attend the festival (April 5-8) or just enjoy more fully the documentaries you’re already watching. Teasley says the class will explore “the unique documentary ecosystem that Durham provides,” including Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, the festival’s producer, and the Southern Documentary Fund, a local nonprofit that supports filmmakers.

Returning to the OLLI line-up in time for the midterm congressional elections, retired Associated Press journalist Walter Mears will teach “Politics & Government 2018,” promising “a minimum of lecturing and a maximum of class participation, questions and comments.” Mears, who spent nearly 50 years covering Washington and national politics, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977.

A course examining the essential nature of Islam and how it is expressed in today’s world will be taught by Imam Abdul Waheed beginning on Jan. 10. Waheed is the interim Muslim chaplain/Imam for Duke's Center for Muslim Life/Muslim Student Association. “Currently there is no greater struggle for a committed Muslim than to fight for a clear recognition of the true values of Islam,” says Waheed. “For instance, the religion demands a basic commitment to the preservation of life, yet there are groups of Muslims who claim to obey religious principles while committing violence against innocent people.”

Catherine Cross Tsintzos, a 2017 Duke University Trillium Sustainability Fellow and 2016 TEDx speaker, will offer a two-session workshop, “Simple Handmade Books: An Exploration with Surface Design,” beginning on March 5. Participants will learn an array of surface design techniques, including work with natural dye pigments and agricultural incorporations from the Duke Campus Farm. In the final session, participants will return with dried papers for assembling into books.

Popular OLLI instructor Dr. Wendell Musser, a retired former Duke academic physician, is offering a new course on President Dwight Eisenhower, who has increasingly been hailed, Musser says, as “a military Machiavelli, a political genius and a great president.”

Another course, “OLLI at the Nasher,” will focus on the art of the recently installed Wilson Pavilion at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke. Ruth Caccavale, who has taught a number of art history classes at OLLI and also works in the education department of the Nasher Museum, will facilitate this discussion-based course.

In addition to the classes, OLLI sponsors social events, guest speakers, short trips and a host of special interest groups, ranging from two book clubs and an International Folk Dance group to the New Horizons Band and Chorus. OLLI, a Duke continuing studies program, serves more than 2,200 members in the Triangle.