Spring 2018 OLLI Study Groups
April 2–June 1, 2018




10:00–11:30 a.m.

The Tastemakers: The Shaping of American Popular Taste
Suzanne Meier

8 sessions (April 2–May 21)

We will be discussing the origins of popular taste in America, and the tastemakers–“the arbiters of style,” from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries. The book is described as “A history of American popular taste in art, architecture, and interior design, featuring the book's three main divisions: The Public Taste, The Private Taste, and The Corporate Taste, with short sketches of the men and women responsible for the trends." The group will read and discuss two chapters per session. The facilitator is planning to include in-class videos via You Tube and other sources, as an aid to discussion of the topic.

Reading materials: (Required) The Tastemakers: The Shaping of American Popular Taste by Russell Lynes (ISBN: 0486239934).

Facilitator: Suzanne Meier has an extensive background in the history of architecture and art and is very interested in culture, popular art movements, and how they affect and shape the built environment. She has given lectures in the past for various groups and was a frequent guest lecturer at the Theosophical Society of Baltimore.


10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Reading Paul Monette’s “Last Watch of the Night”
Dirk Mol

7 sessions (April 2–May 14)

At a time when AIDS is a manageable disease rather than a death sentence and same sex marriage is the law of the land, there are fewer and fewer people who remember the challenges facing the gay community in the 1980s and 90s. Paul Monette is the writer who helps us remember.

He came to prominence in 1988 with Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, an account of the death of his partner, Roger. He followed that with the autobiographical Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, which won an American Book Award in 1992. But it is Last Watch of the Night, his book of essays written in the months before his death in 1995 that most poignantly recounts the struggle.

We will watch the documentary, The Brink of Summer’s End, a tribute to his life and death. Then we will read and discuss selected essays from Last Watch of the Night.

Reading materials: (Required) Last Watch of the Night by Paul Monette (ISBN: 0156002027). Obtaining a copy of the book will be necessary to benefit from this group since the essays are not on the internet and will not be posted on the OLLI website.

Facilitator: Dirk Mol has facilitated eight previous study groups, four of them on the best science and nature writings of the year (co-led by Claudia Reich.) The others have focused on the impact of psychological theory on 20th Century culture, the nature of trauma, and issues in death and dying. He had a 20-year career as an Episcopal priest, followed by 25 years as a psychotherapist. He is almost retired and loves OLLI study groups.


1:30–3:00 p.m.

Cicero on Old Age
Richard Meier

6 sessions (April 2–May 7, 2008)

During a period of political exile, the Great Roman orator wrote a series of philosophical dialogues, none better than De Senectute–on getting old. He argues for an optimistic view of aging, against the negative portrayals found elsewhere. We’ll take a close look at this ancient text, and have an open discussion on the timeless issues it raises.

Reading materials: (Required) Many translations available. Suggested is Oxford World’s Classics edition called Cicero on Life and Death (ISBN: 0199644144).

Facilitator: Richard’s interest in Cicero goes back to high school Latin. He has led previous study groups on Homer and Virgil.


1:30–4:30 p.m.

Reflections of the Past: German Films of the Last Two Decades
Marganit Weinberger-Rotman

8 sessions (April 2–May 21)

The films in this study group are not documentaries: they are attempts by German filmmakers to examine and come to terms with the crimes of the past and with collective culpability. It is part of Vergangenheitsbewaltigung (yes, it’s a real word meaning: struggle to overcome the negatives of the past). Some of these films re-imagine the realities of life in the Third Reich: persecution and resistance (“Rosenstrasse,” “Aimee and Jaguar,” Sophie Scholl–The Final Days,” “Alone in Berlin”); others depict the immediate aftermath of the war (“Phoenix,” “Lore,” “Bye Bye Germany”). “Nasty Girl” tells about efforts to silence the past and ignore the evidence, and “The White Ribbon,” though taking place years before the war, explores “the roots of evil”. Two biopics (“Hannah Arendt” and “Stephen Zweig- Farewell to Europe”) depict the plight of intellectuals and their response to the events. With the resurgence of extremism and fascism everywhere, such films can serve as cautionary tales.

Based on availability, eight of the movies described above will be shown and discussed in this study group. The films will be announced two weeks in advance of screening in class and via email.

Facilitator: Marganit Weinberger-Rotman worked for Israeli Television for many years and attends the International Jerusalem Film Festival every year. She has facilitated five OLLI study groups involving Israeli cinema and one on French comedies.



10:00–11:30 a.m.

Emerging Issues in Science and Nature
Dirk Mol & Claudia Reich

6 sessions (April 3–May 8)

In the tradition of their study group Keeping Up with the Science Jones, Claudia and Dirk are offering a similar group that will draw on online articles from current periodicals. So no need to buy an anthology this time. Topics and related articles are:

  • Human Health: Fats and carbohydrate intake and cardiovascular disease, Gut microbiota and lifespan
  • Developments in Gene Research: Gene editing in human embryos, Gene therapies for blood cancers
  • Impacts of Climate Change: The Larsen C ice shelf break, Nutrition and climate change
  • Anthropology and biology: Story of human origins revised, Declining total flying insect biomass
  • Human Behavior: The opioid crisis, Altered tastes
  • Humans and Nature: The parks of tomorrow, out here, no one can hear you scream

Facilitators: Claudia Reich holds a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the U. of I., she has been a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry, and Research Professor and Senior Scientist in Microbiology and the Institute for Genomic Research. Her research has centered on molecular biology and genomics of microorganisms. At OLLI she has facilitated several study groups and is currently teaching a course on “The Microbial World."

Dirk Mol has facilitated eight previous study groups, four of them on the best science and nature writings of the year. The others have focused on the impact of psychological theory on 20th Century culture, the nature of trauma, and issues in death and dying. He had a 20-year career as an Episcopal priest, followed by 25 years as a psychotherapist. He believes in the Socratic method of teaching and used it in both his careers.


10:00–11:30 a.m.

The Purpose of Life: An Eastern Philosophical Vision–A Reading and Discussion
Bob Strauss

8 sessions (April 3–May 22)

This group will read and discuss the book The Purpose of Life: An Eastern Philosophical Vision by Dr. Carlo Filice, Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Geneseo. Dr. Filice received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Illinois. His areas of expertise include philosophy of religion, ethics and contemporary religious ideas.

In this work, Dr. Filice addresses some of the major philosophical questions including:

  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • What is the purpose of life? 
  • What is the nature of the Supreme Being? 
  • Why does evil exist? Why do innocent people suffer? 
  • Is there an afterlife? And if there is an afterlife, which version is likely to be the correct one?

We will evaluate Dr. Filice’s arguments on the points above and attempt to determine whether or not he successfully makes his case. Although many of the issues in this book are theologically focused, our approach will be to analyze them philosophically.

Participation in the group does not require previous background or training in philosophy. Dr. Filice’s writing style is straightforward and easy to understand given the abstract nature of the issues he addresses.

Reading materials: (Required) The Purpose of Life: An Eastern Philosophical Vision (ISBN 0761855823) will have to be purchased. The cost of the paperback book is $33.99 and can be ordered through a local store and it should arrive within 1-2 weeks. We might also read a few of Dr. Filice’s articles, which the facilitator will make available to participants.

Facilitator: Prior to his career in Human Resources management, Bob Strauss completed Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in philosophy. He has always had a strong interest in philosophical theology, and has done quite a bit of reading in comparative religions. While pursuing his Master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Illinois, he met and became friends with Carlo Filice, a fellow graduate student in philosophy at the U. of I. They have remained friends over the past 40 years and have recently spent vacation time together discussing his book and his views. Carlo has agreed to do a Skype session with the study group to answer questions and further explain his views.


1:30–3:00 p.m.

Poetry Reading
Bill Breeding, Linda Coleman, Kendall Rafter, Claudia Reich, Joy Thornton-Walter & Helen Thursh

8 sessions (April 3–May 22)

Poetry is best enjoyed among friends. Poems evoke feelings, meanings and experiences that are personal in nature; what moves you may not move me, what intrigues me may not intrigue you. And when we share our different responses to poems, we all gain a deeper understanding.

Every week we will read and discuss poems, from the classics to the modern. Selections will be chosen by consensus and we will draw on available free resources such as The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org) and other Internet sites. This Study Group is a communal endeavor, and we will share the responsibilities of proposing poems to read and facilitating discussions of them.

The naming of facilitators only reflects the necessity of providing channels of communication, but we stress that participation will require active engagement from everyone in the group.


1:30–3:00 p.m.

The Book of Ecclesiastes
Norman Klein

4 sessions (May 1–May 22)

The study group will read and discuss the philosophy of the text of Ecclesiastes and explore some of the many themes it contains, regarding what can be considered a meaningful life. We also try to understand Ecclesiastes and hypothesize its authorship within the context of the time when it was written, approximately somewhere in the Third Century before the Common Era. The group will read and discuss the Book of Ecclesiastes sequential order: 1) Selections from Chapters 1-3; 2) Selections from Chapters 4-6); 3) Selections from Chapters 7-9; 4) Selections from Chapters 10-12.

Reading materials: (Required) Any Bible in English translation that includes the Book of Ecclesiastes - in the Jewish Bible it is part of the third section of the Tanach called Ketuvim (Writings).

Facilitator: Rabbi Norman Klein has studied, read and talked about this book many times in his career. It is the part of the special readings (that is, the megillah, or scroll) which is read on the Jewish fall holiday of Sukkot (The Festival of Booths).


3:30–5:00 p.m.

The Philosophies of Kant and Schopenhauer
Frank Hoss

8 sessions (April 3–May 22)

This group will read and discuss chapters of The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. Kant will be discussed in three sessions; Schopenhauer will be discussed in five sessions.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is one of the most influential philosophers in the history of Western philosophy. His contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics have had a profound impact on almost every philosophical movement that followed him.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) has been dubbed the artist’s philosopher due to the inspiration his aesthetics have provided to artists of all stripes. He is also known as the philosopher of pessimism, as he articulated a worldview that challenges the value of existence.

Reading materials: (Required) The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (ISBN: 0671739166).

Facilitator: Frank Hoss has graduate degrees in Theology, Philosophy and Classical Languages. He has been an adjunct instructor in Philosophy and Religion at community colleges and has led several OLLI study groups on Philosophy.



10:00–11:30 a.m.

The New Yorker
Kathleen Holden & Marilyn Resch

9 sessions (April 4–May 30)

The New Yorker provides a unique mix of articles and reviews on current topics, literature, and the arts. This study group is designed for readers of The New Yorker who want to get together to discuss current articles from the magazine. The weekly selection of the articles is made by a consensus of the group. Members are encouraged to choose and lead the discussion of one or more articles during the session. When not leading the discussion, members are encouraged to participate in the discussions. Members are required to have some reliable means of obtaining the articles to be discussed.

Reading materials: (Required) The New Yorker magazine

Facilitators: Kathleen Holden is a retired U. of I. administrator. She has been a member of several interesting OLLI study groups, including the New Yorker.

Marilyn Resch is a retired attorney. Since joining OLLI in late 2013, she has participated in a number of study groups on a variety of topics. The New Yorker is one of her favorites.


1:30–3:00 p.m.

The Economist
Peg Maher & Norman Miller

9 sessions (April 4–May 30)

The Economist is a global weekly magazine written for those who share an uncommon interest in being well and broadly informed. Each issue explores domestic and international issues, business, finance, current affairs, science, technology and the arts. It is an English magazine, and has been in publication since 1843. Reporting is currently from 196 countries, decidedly with an international flavor. The circulation includes 4.5 million print subscribers and 2.8 million digital readers making it the most widely read magazine covering politics, economics, culture and general news around the world.

Participants will discuss the selected articles, take turns commenting on the topics, and add insights and information from other resources, personal experience, and knowledge, e.g. travel in foreign country. We aim to have active participation and lively conversations about the world today. The group reads and discusses world events as seen more broadly than from any other periodical being published today.

Reading materials: (Required) All participants are expected to have access to The Economist in print or digitally. Student subscription rate is available for short term or annually. An inquisitive interest in world affairs is encouraged. New print subscribers should expect 4-6 week delay in receiving the magazine. Some library members (e.g. Champaign Public) may have digital access so ask your library.

Facilitators: Peg Maher, Social Worker, retired after having had many casework and management positions in several organizations (family service, juvenile justice, mental health and child welfare) and in states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, and returned to Champaign in 2015. During several previous years she participated in lively discussions of The Economist at Washington University Lifelong Learning Institute in St. Louis, Mo. She has co-facilitated this OLLI The Economist study group since 2016. She is a graduate from Ohio University and University of Pittsburgh.

Norman Miller taught Mechanical Engineering subjects at the University of Illinois for over 30 years. As a young man, he served in the Peace Corps for over two years in the Dominican Republic. He founded a technology company in the early 1980s and served as its chief technology officer for many years. He has facilitated other study groups - the New Yorker, Science and Technology, as well as The Economist at OLLI.


1:30–4:30 p.m.

Starring Steve Martin
Christine Catanzarite

8 sessions (April 4–May 30, no session on May 2)

Steve Martin is a stand-up comedian, actor, essayist, novelist, playwright, art collector, screenwriter, producer, musician, magician, and wild and crazy guy. He has won Emmys, Grammys, the American Comedy Award, the Writers’ Guild Award, the Mark Twain Prize, the Kennedy Center Honor, and an honorary Oscar for career achievement and excellence.

Steve Martin has appeared in more than 50 movies since the late 1970s, working in a wide variety of genres and styles. Some of his films are–like his pioneering stand-up comedy–cerebral and avant garde; others are mainstream comedies and family films.

This study group will look at a selection of Martin’s films representing his range and versatility. Each session will begin with a short introduction of the film, followed by a screening of the film and a lively discussion.

Feature films to be shown are:

  • 1st session–excerpts from The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), and All of Me (1984)
  • Roxanne (1987)
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  • Parenthood (1989)
  • L.A. Story (1991)
  • The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
  • It’s Complicated (2009)
  • The Big Year (2011)

Reading Materials: Short optional readings excerpted from Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (written by Steve Martin), a few online articles, and links to online video clips will be posted on the OLLI website for those who are interested in exploring further.

Facilitator: Chris Catanzarite is a professor and historian of film and popular culture who has taught five film and theater courses, and facilitated four study groups on film-related topics, at OLLI. Since January 2012, she has been the Director of OLLI.



10:00–11:30 a.m.

Best American Mystery Stories 2017
Bev Herzog & Ron Baker

8 sessions (April 5–May 31 –no session on April 19)

This session we will be reading and discussing the twenty stories in The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, edited and introduction by John Sanford, and Otto Penzler, Series Editor. This is the most recent book of the series. This volume contains stories by such well-known authors as C.J. Box, Jeffrey Deaver, Peter Straub, and Joyce Carol Oates. Guest editor John Sandford writes in his introduction, “Some people might tell you that crime short stories, unlike the more precious kind, are a kind of fictional ghetto, full of cardboard characters and clichéd situations. Not true. These stories are remarkably free of b******t—although there’s always a little, just to grease the wheels.”

Group members will be expected to read and be ready to discuss two to three stories each week. Group members will also be asked to volunteer to lead discussions of a story or two, including researching the authors of the stories, developing study questions, and leading the discussion. Many members follow the session with lunch together at a local restaurant, where they may continue to discuss the stories and develop friendships. Story leaders get to select the restaurant.

Reading materials: (Required) The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, edited and introduction by John Sanford and Otto Penzler, Series Editor (ISBN: 0544949080)

Facilitators: Bev Herzog is a retired geologist who has been an avid reader of mysteries since she was introduced to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as a child. She has participated in mystery short stories study groups since joining OLLI in 2010 and has co-facilitated this group 11 times since 2011 to excellent reviews.

Ron Baker is a retired Federal Human Resources Manager and OLLI member since 2013. He almost exclusively reads mystery stories and has been in several OLLI mystery story study groups. He has co-facilitated this group in six previous sessions.


10:00–11:30 a.m.

Time Magazine
John Moore

8 sessions (April 5–May 31 –no session on April 19)

The group selects three articles from Time Magazine each week to discuss, with a volunteer leader for each article. Time Magazine is the world’s leading newsmagazine, featuring national and international affairs; health, business, culture and entertainment.

Reading materials: (Required) All participants are expected to have access to Time Magazine in print or digitally.

Facilitator: John Moore is an almost retired Allergist and Pediatrician. He is a long-time fan of Time and Newsweek.


1:30–4:30 p.m.

Treme, Season 2
Casey Sutherland & Tom Galer-Unti

8 sessions (April 5–May 31, no session on April 19)

In this study group, together we will watch season 2 (eleven episodes, 2011) of the acclaimed HBO series Treme, which is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Season one began three months after “the storm” and season two begins a year later. Many of the characters in the show are musicians, and the rich gumbo of New Orleans music is featured prominently in the series, as well as a talented ensemble cast. Warning: the show contains adult themes and includes profanity, nudity, sex, and some violence. But oh, the music! The series was nominated for several Emmy Awards, a Grammy for season one’s soundtrack, and it won a Peabody Award in 2011.

Viewing of season 1 is not a requirement, but study group members will likely enjoy season 2 more if they are familiar with the characters and story lines from season 1. Both of the local public libraries have season 1 on DVD. HBO subscribers can watch season 1 via HBO on Demand; the entire series is also available for free streaming with an amazon Prime subscription. Season 1 on DVD is also available with a Netflix DVD subscription, but not currently via streaming Netflix. The facilitators will present a brief summary of season 1 at the beginning of the first session.

Facilitators: Casey Sutherland is a happily retired librarian who has previously co-facilitated four OLLI film/TV study groups. She has participated in film study groups and film classes every term since joining OLLI in January 2014. She is also a native New Orleanian who spent countless hours in her young adulthood in the music clubs of her hometown.

Tom Galer-Unti has co-facilitated seven OLLI study groups and has taken numerous film classes and study groups. His most recent co-facilitation stint was with Casey in presenting Treme, season 1, which was offered in summer 2017.



10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Writing and Performing Poetry
John Palen

8 sessions (April 6–June 1, no session on April 20)

This is a poetry workshop culminating in a reading, with family, friends and other OLLI members invited to the final presentation. Participants will work from model poems to write short, free-verse poems and read them aloud to the group. This is not primarily a critique group, although brief periods will be set aside for discussion of such topics as writing process, effective oral presentation, revision, and how to seek publication. Participants will be encouraged to continue to revise work at home and bring it back to the workshop to share.

Facilitator: John Palen’s eighth collection of poetry is coming out this fall from Mayapple Press. He has published poetry in literary magazines since the late 1960’s. He taught poetry writing to el-hi students in Michigan public schools through the state Writers in the Schools project. He is a retired journalist and journalism educator, and did his undergraduate work at Washington University in St. Louis and earned masters’ and doctoral degrees at Michigan State University.


1:30–3:00 p.m.

Advanced Latin
Harold Diamond

8 sessions (April 6–June 1, no session on April 20)

Advanced Latin is a continuation of the Advanced Latin Study Group that has been meeting through OLLI since 2013. Participants should have prerequisite skills in the Latin language, e.g. some familiarity with grammar and vocabulary. Our meetings are lively and include discussions of historical and etymological topics. We have completed Orberg's Lingua Latina Pars I and Ecce Romani II-B and III. We have recently read works of Caesar, Cicero, and Augustus, among others.

Reading materials: (Required) We are currently reading Using Latin: Book II, by Gummere and Horn, published by Scott, Foresman, 1955. It will be useful also to have a Latin grammar book and a Latin dictionary for this study group.

Facilitator: Harold Diamond studied Latin in high school, attended Kay Nealʼs OLLI classes, and participates in the Advanced Latin Study Group. All members of the group share in determining the path we follow.


1:30–4:00 p.m.

Writers’ Café
Frank Chadwick

8 sessions (April 6–June 1, no session on April 20)

Each week we meet to exchange news about writing in the Champaign-Urbana area, share a craft tip or exercise, and then (the main activity) read passages we’ve written and have the group critique them and make suggestions for improvement. We write all genres and forms: children’s stories, young adult, science fiction, historical fiction, memoir, poetry, song, travel–you name it. All levels of experience welcome. We all start somewhere, and the best place is in the company of those who are working toward the same goals.

Facilitator: Frank Chadwick is a published historian and novelist and his Desert Shield Fact Book reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list. He has facilitated several OLLI study groups and taught two OLLI courses - Writing the Novel and The 1973 Arab-Israeli War.