O.W.L.L. - Older Wiser Lifelong Learners

What is O.W.L.L.?

With the collaboration of the Lexington Council on Aging, the Friends of the Council on Aging present O.W.L.L. - Older, Wiser, Lifelong Learners.

OWLL logo

O.W.L.L. (Older, Wiser, Lifelong Learners) Fall Semester Courses for
September through December 2018

Download the FALL 2018 registration form

All classes will be at the Lexington Community Center

O.W.L.L. Fall Semester Courses for

September through December 2018

Africa’s Promise: Twelve Critical Challenges


5 sessions, November 6, 13, 20, 27, December 4

Tuesdays 10-11:30

Robert Rotberg Biosketch: Professor Robert I. Rotberg taught for many years at Harvard Kennedy School and MIT Political Science. He was Academic Vice President at Tufts and President of Lafayette College. He was on the Lex. School Committee and has served as a TM member for 43 years. He is President Emeritus of the World Peace Foundation and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has published many books on Africa and other subjects. He visits Africa regularly.

Course Description: Terrorism, civil conflict, global warming, the disappearance of fauna (rhinoceroses, elephants, lions, giraffe), medical and health advances, population growth, urbanization, education, economic sustainability, managing China, strengthening leadership, and improving governance are Africa’s 12 most pressing problems as 2018 unfolds. None of these acute challenges is new, but 2018 will see each of them become more central to Africa’s ability to improve the standards of living and social outcomes of its myriad citizens. This course will discuss two or three of those topics in each session, following an introduction at the beginning and a conclusion at the end. Related topics will also feature. There will be ample time at each session for participants to raise concerns of their own and to ask questions about the presentations. This course is intended to enrich each attendee’s understanding of Africa, however experienced and knowledgeable each may be. (This is not the same course as the one given under OWLL auspices in 2015.) Books titles: Rotberg, Africa Emerges (Polity, 2013) and Rotberg, The Corruption Cure (Princeton, 2017).

Five Microbes that Changed the World

Instructor: MARY ALLEN

5 sessions, October 11, 18, 25, November 1, 8

Thursdays, 2-3:30

Mary Allen Biosketch: Mary Allen is Jean Glasscock Professor of Biological Sciences Emerita at Wellesley College. She is a microbiologist who taught microbiology, microbial physiology and biochemistry, cell biology and a series of microbial seminars. She was Chair of Biological Sciences, Director of Biological Chemistry and Director of the Science Center during 41 years of classroom teaching at Wellesley. Since retiring in 2009 she continued her research on cyanobacterial biochemistry, and the responses of the microbes to changes in their environment, with her undergraduate student colleagues. The Allen lab most recently studied biofilm formation in cyanobacteria. The lab is observing biofilms growing in flow chambers using confocal microscopy and assaying for quorum sensing molecules. Differences in motile and non-motile strains and phototaxis abilities are being analyzed. She is a past president of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), a national professional organization that encourages research in the undergraduate environment. She enjoys traveling, cross country skiing, kayaking and reading mysteries (especial with microbial villains) and relaxing in the New Hampshire cottage that her husband and she built of light-weight concrete.

She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the first two Fellows of the Council on Undergraduate Research, was awarded the Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1986, and the American Society of Microbiology Carski Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995. She served on the Pew Science Advisory Committee, the NSF BIO Advisory Committee, on two HHMI Undergraduate Science Education Advisory Panels, chairing one; three Beckman Scholars Advisory Panels, and currently continues to serve on the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Life Sciences Research Initiation Grants Panel.

Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, Research Corporation, and she was Program Director of many NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates grants to the Biology Department, Beckman Scholars Program, Merck and NSF Award for the Integration of Research and Education (with Prof. Kolodny in Chemistry).

Course Description: What makes microbiology different from other areas of biology and why is it so important? We will study this through history and science, using model microbes to learn how microorganisms have changed both the course of human history and our own lives as well, in positive and some negative ways. There is no prerequisite.

Standing Ajar: The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Instructor: TOM DALEY

4 sessions, September 14, 21, 28, October 5

Fridays, 10-12:00

Tom Daley Biosketch: Tom Daley Recipient of the Dana Award in Poetry and the Charles and Fanny Fay Wood Prize from the Academy of American Poets, Tom Daley’s poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Witness, and elsewhere. He is the author of two plays, Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Irish Servants and In His Ecstasy—The Passion of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which he performs as one-man shows. His book, House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems, was published by FutureCycle Press. He leads poetry and memoir writing workshops at Lexington Community Education and elsewhere in the Boston area and online.

Course Description: “The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” ― Emily Dickinson. In this course, we will examine the work of the famously reclusive Amherst poet who only published ten poems in her lifetime, but who is now considered one of the greatest poets of the English language. Everyone who falls under the spell of her poetry claims Emily Dickinson for her or his own. Mystics and atheists alike see in her musings a buttressing of their position. She is at once philosopher and scoffer, priestess and heretic, quaint and savage. Her strange syntax, her abrupt rhythms, and her irregular rhyme scheme baffled the critics of her day and the meaning of many of her poems has been subjected to the wildest range of interpretation of almost any poet’s work. Now considered a trailblazer in the use of form, her work has inspired experimental poets and formal poets alike.

We will study Dickinson's evolution as a poet and discuss how her biography both elucidates and obscures her work. Although we will be focusing on her poetry, we will also consider the riches of her letter-writing prose. As part of the course, the instructor will perform the one-man version of his play, Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Irish Servants. *Course cost of $36 includes text.
Non-Residents and residents both may register at the OWLL reception September 6th or on-line the 7th. This applies ONLY TO THIS CLASS.**

The Entertainer and the Invincible Eagle: Scott Joplin and John Philip Sousa, American All-Stars


6 sessions, October 29, November 5, 19, 26, December 3, 10

Mondays, 3-4:30

MARGARET ULMER Biosketch: Margaret Ulmer, pianist, specializes in the ragtime compositions of Scott Joplin and colleagues, folk-based regional music, the piano music of the composer-pianists of Tin Pan Alley, and the Great American Songbook. Her solo concerts of American music include Marches, Rags and Blues; Sophisticated Ladies; Ragtime Musique; Excursions--America's Musical Landscapes; and Jazz Nocturne.

Ms. Ulmer is a co-founder and former producing and musical director of American Classics Concerts, for which she also created four ragtime programs. She directed music for the long-running improvisational revue, The Proposition, in Cambridge and New York City, for productions at Boston’s major repertory theatres and the Berkshire Theatre Festival. She has also taught theater and music improvisation workshops in the U.S, and Japan. European engagements include performances with Boston Musica Viva and Alea III at multimedia arts festivals in the U.S., Austria, Germany, and Greece.

Recently, Ms. Ulmer has been directing music for several new musicals. She teaches piano and improvisation and coaches singers in European cabaret and the Great American Songbook.

Course Description: Scott Joplin (“The King of Ragtime”) and John Philip Sousa (“The March King”) were part of the vibrant American “Age of Ingenuity” bridging the 19th and 20th centuries. Although their names today may be synonymous with “ragtime” and “march,” their paths to fame were vastly different: one was wealthy, one was poor; one was famous, one obscure. We’ll explore their histories and music, listen to recordings (some original), see film clips, look at musical scores (fun even for those who don’t read music!), and enjoy live performances in every class. There will be opportunity for questions and discussion, (including why we consider Joplin and Sousa together), and participants will receive lists of suggested readings and recordings for further reference.

  • Class I: The American musical scene and popular styles in an era of invention; Joplin and Sousa: rural and urban.
  • Class II: Scott Joplin: Texarcana to Sedalia; the Midwestern ragtime scene; early works.
  • Class III: Scott Joplin: Sedalia eastward; later works and Treemonisha; NYC.
  • Class IV: John Philip Sousa: military band music; the Sousa Band; the marches.
  • Class V: John Philip Sousa: International fame and European tours; operettas, songs.
  • Class VI: The Entertainer and the Invincible Eagle: more than ragtime and marches.

Americans in Italy: Stories of Edith Wharton and Henry James


4 sessions, September 27, October 4, 18, 25

Thursdays, 2-3:30

Vincent Petronella Biosketch: Vincent Petronella  Lexington resident, Vincent F. Petronella, taught a class in American Transcendentalism for OWLL last fall. He is Professor of English, Emeritus, at UMASS Boston. His critical edition of King Lear was published in 2012. He teaches Shakespeare, British Literature, and 19th Century American literature. He has taught at the Univ. Oregon, UMass Amherst, Boston State College, UMass Boston, and Beacon Hill Seminars. Formerly he served as president of the Boston Browning Society (est. 1885) and on the Boston Public Library's Special Collections Committee. He received his Ph.D. from UMass Amherst.

Course Description: In stories by Edith Wharton and Henry James we encounter noteworthy Americans abroad both traveling through and living in Italy. In this course we'll explore not only thought-provoking Italian settings but also the international theme of innocence (naiveté) vs. experience (sophistication), which arises from an intricate and nuanced conflict between new and old-world customs and principles.

Boy Plays Girl Plays Boy Plays Girl: Love in Shakespeare’s As You Like It


6 sessions, October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, November 7

Wednesdays, 10-12:00

Elizabeth Kenney Biosketch: Elizabeth Kenney received her baccalaureate degree from Sarah Lawrence College and her doctorate in English Literature from Boston College. She currently serves as Assistant Dean of Research and Graduate Studies as well as Executive Director of the Center for Research and Creative Activities at Salem State University. She has lectured on her current research into a prominent nineteenth century literary family from Connecticut at conferences in Europe and the United States. Complementing Dr. Kenney’s discussion of As You Like It, Richard Edelman, Professor of Theater emeritus at Boston University, will offer insightful commentary on the staging of Shakespearean drama from an actor’s perspective.

Course Description: We will have fun engaging with Shakespeare’s mad cap yet complex examination of romantic love and gender through one of his most engaging female characters, Rosalind, who spends most of the play disguised as a boy. In addition to engaging in a close reading of the text, savoring Shakespeare’s language, wit, and wisdom, we will consider staging and performance, including watching and discussing a film version of the play. *Course cost of $31 includes text.

Music and the Mendelssohns


4 sessions, November 8, 15, 29, December 6

Thursdays, 10-12:00

Dotty Burstein Biosketch: Dotty Burstein has had a lifelong interest in the intersection of composers’ lives and their music... As children, she and her sister made up the piano and violin portion of a piano trio with their cellist friend, and the three entertained local service clubs with Mozart, Haydn and Schubert. As an adolescent Dotty gave her senior recital at Wesleyan College and participated in music competitions across the state of Georgia, where she grew up. In college, she was inducted into the music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota and took master classes with composer Edwin Gerschefki. Today Dotty continues to enjoy attending concerts and recitals and encouraging others to find joy and inspiration in music.

Course Description: In their relatively brief lives, Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn left a rich legacy of chamber music, lieder, and choral works. Well-trained by some of Germany's best teachers of theory, harmony, and composition, they grew up equally skilled in conducting, composing, and performing. For Fanny, however, any musical aspirations on her part were dashed when she became engaged to the court painter Wilhelm Hensel. Although Hensel fully supported Fanny's life in music, her father wrote the following words: “While music will perhaps become Felix's profession, for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the basis of your being and doing.” He wrote these words to Fanny, who at 12, had played the 24 Bach preludes from memory, a remarkable feat at any age. Not only that, but Fanny composed works that Felix published under his name. Both father and brother also forbade Fanny's performing in public, and she acquiesced! In this class, we learn how Fanny managed to live a fulfilling musical life in her own way. We listen to some of her incredibly gorgeous compositions and compare them to those of her brother, equally beautiful but, in many cases, exhibiting a very different style.

Like his sister, Felix also realized the importance of J.S. Bach, whose music and reputation had languished in relative obscurity for almost a century after his death. Accordingly, Mendelssohn introduced the works of Bach, especially the choral compositions, to a whole new generation of concert-goers. This happened around 1835, when the composer assumed the position of Kapellmeister (conductor) of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, where next fall, the BSO will perform as part of what Jeremy Eichler has described as “a musical tale of two cities: Leipzig and Boston”. However, as Eichler also points out, Leipzigers are as enthusiastic about their Gewandhaus Orchestra and other Leipzig music ensembles as Bostonians are about their sports teams. Even the BSO was created to “perform a specific repertoire and embody a specific performance culture of classical music, both of which were first invented in Leipzig” by Felix Mendelssohn.

Registration and Fees: Fall 2018

Please note: Registration for OWLL begins after our reception on Thursday, September 6th..
Note: All registration for O.W.L.L. courses is through Lexington Community Center.

A separate check for each course should be made payable to: Town of Lexington. Resident $25/course and non-resident $50/course. Registrations will not be processed prior to September 6th. Registrations mailed in before September 6th will be processed after the reception. Online registration begins September 7th. Non-resident registration begins September 18th. Financial aid is available for Lexington residents.

*Credit card registration available online at: www.lexingtonma.gov/recreationdepartment.cfm

For further information, email owll.fcoa@gmail.com or call the Community Center at 781-698-4870.