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O.W.L.L. Courses

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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.

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O.W.L.L.’s Winter 2023 Semester Courses

Sponsored by the COA and FCOA

Exciting January through March OWLL Learning Opportunities

OWLL offers low-cost, not-to-be-missed courses for Older, Wiser, Lifelong Learners.


Please join us at the OWLL fall reception, to be held on Thursday, September 8, 2022, at 4:00 on Zoom. The fall instructors will be previewing their courses. -->Mark your calendars, and then register, starting August 17, at LexRecMa.com or by phoning 781-698-4840.

Wonders of New England Wildlife


Instructor: Bill Gette

4 Tuesdays, January 10, 17, February 21, 284:00–5:15

Bill GetteIn two of his presentations, Bill takes you first on a tour of Cape Ann to the Merrimack River and then a tour of Machias Seal Island and Eastern Maine. Two other sessions focus on birds: the winter raptors and then the ducks of New England.

Cape Ann to Merrimack River (01/10/23)
Essex County, Massachusetts, from Cape Ann to the Merrimack River is beautiful any time of year. But in winter, there’s something very special about this little corner of the world.
During his PowerPoint lecture, Bill Gette will take you on a photographic excursion from the rocky headlands of Cape Ann, through historic Essex, to the expansive saltmarshes of the Plum Island Estuary and the barrier island beaches at the mouth of the Merrimack River. He will show you beautiful scenery and an incredible variety of wildlife that not only survives but prospers during our harsh New England winters. Bill will share maps so you can plan a winter adventure on your own, and he’ll show you examples of the wildlife typical of each location on our virtual itinerary, including harlequin duck, long-tailed duck, snowy owl, Lapland longspur, white-winged crossbill, and many more.

Winter Raptors - Birds at the Top of the Food Web (01/17/23)
Some of the most sought-after birds in New England are the many species of winter raptors (hawks, eagles, and owls). Some of these amazing birds are permanent residents in our area. Others move south from their northern breeding grounds during the late fall and winter to hunt over area forests, fields, and salt marshes.
Bill will describe the different feeding strategies employed by the various species and review the many aids to field identification. Did you know that female raptors are bigger than their male counterparts? Did you know that some species of owls hunt in the daytime?

Ducks of New England Lecture (02/21/23)
New England birdwatchers are blessed by the number and variety of ducks they can see in area wetlands, lakes and ponds, and coastal waters. Some species are year-round residents, while others only pass through our region during spring and fall migrations. Still others are strictly winter visitors that migrate from their northern breeding areas to our relatively milder climate.
Bill will show his photographs, review aids to field identification, discuss each duck’s habitat preference and behavioral characteristics, and recommend places where birdwatchers can go to see these magnificent birds.

Machias Seal Island and Eastern Maine (02/28/23)
Bill has led field trips to Machias Seal Island and eastern Maine for over 25 years. Machias Seal Island, located 10 miles off the Maine coast, is claimed and administered by the Canadian government. This barren island is the most important seabird nesting colony along the Maine coast. Here, clownlike Atlantic puffins, razorbills, and Arctic terns nest by the hundreds.

Until his retirement in 2016, Bill Gette was the Sanctuary Director of Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. In 1997 he established the Joppa Flats Bird Banding Station in Newburyport. As of 2019 his staff and volunteers had analyzed and banded over forty thousand birds.

In 2004 Bill established the Birder’s Certificate Program, which continues today. The program is a college-level ornithology course, designed to provide an in-depth learning experience for birders and naturalists and to train field trip leaders. The certificate program includes eleven all-day sessions with half-day lectures, fields trips, assessments, and independent study projects.

Since his retirement, Bill has led natural history travel programs for the Audubon Society (e.g., Galapagos Islands, Big Bend National Park, New Mexico, Alaska); conducted numerous workshops; and has continued as an instructor for the Birders Certificate Program at the Joppa Flats Education Center.

Judeophobia − The Ancient Origins of Antisemitism


Instructor: Steven Stark-Riemer 

6 Tuesdays, January 10, 17, 24, 31, February 7, 1410:00–11:30

Steven Stark-Riemer 

Were the Jews historically one of many minorities, or were they singled out? We’ll consider the question from the first recorded demonstration of anti-Jewish violence in Egypt in 410 BCE, to the 380 CE declaration of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Were Jews in the ancient world just one of many minority groups against whom the dominant majority expressed xenophobia, or were they singled out because of their unique monotheistic beliefs and practices in a polytheistic society? From the first recorded demonstration of anti-Jewish violence on Elephantine Island in southern Egypt in 410 BCE, through antiquity’s most violent eruption in 38 CE at Alexandria in northern Egypt, and to the 380 CE declaration of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, our discussion will be informed by evidence from archaeology, ancient papyri, and Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian writings. We will consider whether early Church leaders understood as a threat to Christian identity the behavior of Gentile believers who also observed Jewish practices, thereby giving rise to Early Christianity’s antipathy toward Judaism.

Tuesday, January 10 10:00 AM
I. The Temple In The Diaspora

What led to the construction of a Jewish temple outside the Land of Israel before Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed? Where was the first recorded event in Jewish history that may be understood as an outbreak of anti-Jewish feeling?

Tuesday, January 17 10:00 AM
II. Alexandria: The First Jewish Golden Age
What were the circumstances that brought Jews to the largest and most cosmopolitan city of the ancient world? How did they come to prosperity there? How did the historians and philosophers of antiquity, and their non-Jewish neighbors view them?

Tuesday, January 24 10:00 AM
III. Alexandria Erupts

How did the Roman conquest of Egypt undermine the position of Jews in Alexandrian society? What were the circumstances and results of the most violent eruption of anti-Jewish sentiment in antiquity?

Tuesday, January 31 10:00 AM
IV. Jewish Success And Roman Fear

What light is shed by the writings of Cicero, Tacitus, and other Romans on the source of ancient antipathy toward Jews and Judaism? Was there something unique about the Jews or Judaism that engendered that enmity?

Tuesday, February 7 10:00 AM
V. Sibling Rivalry

How did the development of Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism from Second Temple Judaism result in the so-called “Parting of the Ways” between these two related faiths? What was the social, economic and religious environment in which Jews, Christians, and their pagan neighbors lived in the Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity?

Tuesday, February 14 10:00 AM
VI. Jewish Success And Christian Fear

What was the condition of Jews in the Roman Empire following the First and Second Revolts in Judea, and the intervening Jewish War in the Diaspora? How did Judaism continue to pose threats to Christian self-identity even after Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 CE?

An attorney by profession, Steven Stark-Riemer graduated magna cum laude from the City College of New York in 1972, studying Anthropology, and specializing in Archaeology. He gained fieldwork experience in Israel at the Tel Gezer excavations under the direction of William G. Dever, today’s preeminent American biblical archaeologist. Following graduation, he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society and accepted into the doctoral program in Anthropology at the University of California at Los Angeles on the strength of his senior thesis on the comparative origins of agriculture in the Nile, Indus, and Mekong River Valleys. Though he did not formally pursue this line of study, his interest in the archaeology, history, and religion of the biblical world continues, and he is well-read in this field, and in biblical studies, generally.

Mr. Stark-Riemer has taught courses on the archaeology, history, and religion of Ancient Israel at many lifelong learning programs in New York’s Capital District, and in Sarasota, Florida. He has acquired a devoted following that has expanded during the pandemic via Zoom to include participants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Ohio, and London, England.

Deep Diving into the Fictional World of Antonia Susan Drabble Byatt Duffy, aka A. S. Byatt


Instructor: Gillian Gill, PhD 

6 Wednesdays, February 1, 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8 10:00–12:00

Gillian Gill, PhD The late 20th century was a golden age for British women writers, and A. S. Byatt was one of the greatest. We will read two of her novels, including Possession, and two of her short story collections. Anyone who is passionate about 19th-century Britain and especially the work of George Eliot and the Brontës will find A. S. Byatt a “must read.”

Note: Students enrolled in this course are urged to read the scheduled book AHEAD of the session and thus, within the limits of Zoom, enable class discussion by coming prepared with questions and comments.

Session 1: A short survey of the wealth of fiction in multiple genres written by British women in the years after World War II. To mention a few: the detective fiction writers Christie, Sayers, Allingham, Tey, James; Muriel Spark; Angela Carter: Jeannette Winterson; Margaret Drabble; Iris Murdoch; Rebeca West; Penelope Fitzgerald; Penelope Mortimer, etc, etc. . Biographical introduction to Byatt: her family background, including her strained relations with her mother and with her younger sister, Margaret Drabble, who came to fame first; her education; her academic career; her slow rise to the top of London’s literary world; the loss of her young son in a road accident. Discussion of The Game (1967), a neglected novel in which Byatt explores the double-focused narrative she will perfect in Possession and, not incidentally, takes on her famous younger sister personally and literarily. She moves between the lives of two ambitious and competitive sisters in postwar Britain and the lives of the Brontë sisters in the nineteenth century.

Session 2 Angels and Insects 1992: An extraordinary collection of short stories showing Byatt’s range of interests and illuminations.

Sessions 3 and 4 Possession 1990: This long and highly sophisticated novel somehow managed to be a best seller in the USA and the UK. As in The Game, Byatt moves between centuries and societies in a story in which a male scholar and a female scholar explore the relationship of two nineteenth-century writers and thereby construct their own. A literary tour de force, Byatt writes the poetry, the letters, and the scholarly articles of her four fictional protagonists.

Session 5: The Djinn and the Nightingale’s Eye 1995. Another short story collection in which Byatt moves outside Europe and addresses the genesis of modern fiction known in the West as The Arabian Nights.

Session 6: The Children’s Book 2009: Returning to the high Victorian period. Byatt explores the artistic world of nineteenth century Britain, in which the new genre of children’s literature was led by women authors like E. Nesbitt. Returning to her focus on incest, Byatt tacitly addresses the infamous case of the artist Eric Gill and shows how, in Victorian culture, sexual transgression lurked just beneath the surface.

Gillian Gill is a Welsh-American writer and academic who specializes in biography. She is the author of Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries (1990); Mary Baker Eddy (1998); Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale (2004); We Two: Victoria and Albert, Rulers, Partners, Rivals (2009); and Virginia Woolf: And the Women Who Shaped Her World (2019).

Born in Cardiff, Wales, Gill attended Cardiff High School for Girls and graduated from the University of Cambridge with a first-class honours degree in French, Italian, and Latin. In March 1972 she obtained her Ph.D., also from Cambridge, for a thesis entitled André Malraux: A Study of a Novelist. After marrying, she emigrated to the United States and taught at Northeastern University, Wellesley, Harvard, and Yale, where she was a fellow of Jonathan Edwards College and director of the Women's Studies Program.

Gill served as executive director of the Alliance of Independent Scholars, a member of board of directors for National Coalition of Independent Scholars, and is a member of the Modern Language Association of America. She was a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow from 1981 to 1983.


Portraits of an Artist’s Brain: Finding the Vietnam War and Parkinson’s Disease in the Art and Neurology of David Thomas


Instructors: David Thomas, Johanna Branson, and David Rose 

3 Fridays, February 10, 17, 2410:30–12:00

David Thomas, Johanna Branson, and David Rose 

Three presenters–an art historian, a neuropsychologist, and the artist himself–will explore the roots of creativity and recovery in the art of David Thomas, whose striking images–both creative and neurological–reflect his history as a Vietnam vet and as a Parkinson’s patient

The complex interplay of nature and nurture in artistic expression has been the focus of much speculation and science for centuries. In this short course, we will examine that interplay by focusing on one remarkable local artist, David Thomas, who is a successful artist, teacher, author, curator, Fulbright scholar, and recent honoree of the Vietnam Art Medal by the government of Vietnam. But he is of particular interest because of two traumas – one experiential, the other biological – that have profoundly affected both his art and his neurology. The first was the Vietnam War (in which he served as an active soldier). The second was his diagnosis and treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. In this course, three different individuals – an art historian, a neuropsychologist, and David himself – will explore the roots of his creativity and recovery in the images of his art and his brain.

C. David Thomas joined the U.S. Army to avoid the draft in 1968 at the age of 22 and was sent to Pleiku, South Vietnam, to serve as a combat engineer/artist for one year (April 11, 1969-April 10, 1970). During that year he was assigned to the 20th Engineer Battalion (Combat). He drew blueprints for several months before volunteering to drive a jeep for Major Jim Yenekis. He spent 6 months driving the roads in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam from Pleiku to Bon Me Thuat to Qui Nhon and Kontum. He returned to the U.S. to complete his military service at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, leaving the Army in 1971.

After leaving the U.S. Army, Thomas joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to protest the U.S. war in Viet Nam. Much of his artwork was catalyzed by the anti-war movement. Thomas completed graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1974 and began a teaching career at Emmanuel College in Boston in 1976, where he taught studio art until 2001. He is currently an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.

In 1987, Thomas returned to Vietnam for the first time. Since then he has made more than fifty trips to Vietnam to do research and conduct programs of cultural exchange between the United States and Vietnam. In 1990 he began the Indochina Arts Partnership (formerly the Indochina Arts Project) and has been the director ever since.

Since 1990 he has curated two major exhibitions: As seen by Both Sides: American and Vietnamese Artists Look at the War and An Ocean Apart: Contemporary Art from the United States and Vietnam. He has also curated several smaller exhibitions that have traveled to museums and universities across the United States. In 2000, he was awarded the “Vietnam Art Medal” by the government of Vietnam in recognition of his contributions to the arts in that country.

He received a Fulbright Grant in 2002 to conduct his work in residence in Hanoi. He and his wife, Jean, lived and worked in Hanoi for two years. While there he designed a book, HO CHI MINH – A Portrait, published in 2003. In 2007, he designed a major book on Ho Chi Minh City with artist Huynh Phuong Dong, which was published by the IAP.

David is currently working on a series of mixed media images based on his response to his 2015 diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease titled “FINDING PARKINSON’S: Doing Battle with My Brain.” These images were inspired by a set of MRI scans of his brain combined with “selfies” and lithographs he made in the 1980s.

Johanna Branson spent her professional career at the Massachusetts College of Art, first as Professor of Art History, then from 1995 to 2010 as the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. She also served as chair of the Commission of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Dr. Branson has published widely on modern and contemporary art. Most recently, she edited Finding Parkinson’s: Doing Battle with My Brain, the catalogue for the 2022 exhibition of prints by C. David Thomas.

Special projects in the past have included Seeing Through “Paradise”: Artists and the Terezin Concentration Camp, an international exhibition and catalogue; Homeland: Use and Desire, an exhibition of contemporary art from the American southwest; Belkis Ayon, an exhibition and catalogue about the late Cuban printmaker; Ellen Rothenberg, a book about the contemporary American performance and multimedia artist; and essays on topics ranging from Kara Walker to Huynh Phuong Dong, a Vietcong artist and soldier.

Currently, Dr. Branson is active in the community of Peacham, Vermont. She serves on the boards of the Peacham Historical Association (President) and the Peacham Library. She works with others to mount exhibitions from the village archives, publishes research about the history of northern New England, and develops new ways of engaging the public with their history. In 2021 she co-authored Preserving Peacham’s Past: 100 Years of Collecting by the Peacham Historical Association. This book won the state-wide award for best historical publication in 2021, given by the League of Local Historical Societies and Museums.

Dr. David Rose is a developmental neuropsychologist and educator whose primary focus has been on the development of new technologies for learning. In 1983 Dr. Rose co-founded CAST, a not-for-profit research and development organization whose mission is to improve education for all learners through innovative uses of modern multimedia technology and contemporary research in the cognitive neurosciences. That work has grown into the field called Universal Design for Learning, which now influences educational policy and practice throughout the United States and beyond. Dr. Rose also taught at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education for over 25 years.

Dr. Rose is the author of several scholarly books, numerous award-winning educational technologies, and dozens of chapters and research journal articles. He has been the principal investigator on grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and many private foundations. The U.S. Department of Education recently appointed him to serve as one of the developers of the National Educational Technology Plan. Dr. Rose has won many awards, including being honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Winter 2023 registration for OWLL courses!

Older Wiser Lifelong Learners (OWLL) courses are now sponsored by the COA and FOCA.

Registration begins December 14 for residents over 60 ($25 per course) and December 21 for nonresidents ($50 per course) at 781-698-4840 or online at LexRecMa.com. For more information, call Human Services at 781-698-4840.