10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Courses

  • Lectures on Diverse Topics

    Lifetime Learning is fortunate to have access to distinguished people who volunteer their time and expertise to give lectures on an eclectic array of subjects.

    Course Organizers: This course was organized by Stephen Engler with assistance by Dennis Curran, Barbara Mason, Ann Dolbear and Bruce Belason.

    Below is a summary list of dates, lecture titles, and speakers. For more information on each lecture, click on either the lecture title or the + sign to the right of the title. To remove the information accessed, click again on either the lecture title or the - sign to the right of the title.

    • September 12

      In this age of information where we strive for guaranteed safety, surety and predictable outcomes, the risk that is inherent to traditional exploration seems out of place.

      The area of the ocean below 20,000 ft. is known as the Hadal Zone. It is regarded as the last frontier of exploration on earth. We gaze up into the infinite void of outer space yet rarely consider the vast ecosystems contained within the ocean's inner space. Rob has planned, managed and led a three-year program that has placed humans to the deepest point of all five oceans on a mission described as “the most significant exploration expedition in a century.”

      Rob describes his recent dive to Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench (36,000 ft.) a location that has never known daylight and is subject to colossal pressures of 8 tons per square inch. Rob will describe the critical steps necessary to venture beyond the known.

      Speaker: Rob McCallum is a professional explorer and expedition leader credited with many world records and world firsts. His team has achieved more than 1,200 expeditions to some of the world's most challenging environments.

    • September 19

      Are you concerned about climate change and its serious effects, but you don't know what to do? Judy Palken is an advocate for the health of our planet. She works to generate political will for a national policy that addresses climate change, and to empower people to take action on this most serious of issues.

      Judy will discuss causes and effects of our changing climate, and share what led to her involvement in this issue. She will present effective actions we can all take that are good for people, animals and all life on our planet. Some of these are simple—we can all act on climate.

      Speaker: Judy Palken (MNS, RD, LSN) is a registered dietitian who lives in Northborough, MA. She has a master's degree in clinical nutrition from Cornell. She translates the science of nutrition into practical recommendations for health. Regarding her environmental advocacy—Judy is not a climate scientist. Rather, she is a concerned citizen and a mom, and believes that working towards climate solutions is something we can all do.

    • October 3: Lecture starts at 9:30 and ends at 11am

      During the first half of the 20th century two Boston lawyers emerged as the most influential figures of the modern American Judiciary: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) and Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941). They overlapped in tenure and friendship on the United States Supreme Court for almost 16 years (1916-1932).

      Their opinions concerning the authority of government to regulate private enterprise (financial practices, competitive behavior, workplace conditions) for purposes of the public interest, and their opinions concerning the rights and freedoms of the individual citizen, often delivered in dissent, became legal doctrines of the second half of the 20th century and, until perhaps very recently, the first quarter of the 21st.

      Holmes was born into a patrician Boston family. His father, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., was an eminent medical doctor and an acclaimed essayist (the Boston-minded originator of the terms “Brahmin” and “The Hub.”)

      In 1861 young Holmes graduated from Harvard College and went directly into the Union Army as an infantry officer. Over the next three years, he saw repeated combat, suffered three serious wounds, and returned to duty after each.

      After the war he enrolled in law school and then practiced in Boston for 12 years. Throughout that time he devoted his evenings to legal research and scholarly writing. In 1882 he published the results of that research in a book entitled The Common Law. The book launched him into international notoriety and, after a brief teaching stint, onto the Massachusetts Supreme Court from 1882 to 1902. In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Supreme Court where he served for almost 30 years until retirement at age 90.

      Holmes' legal writings through his 50 years on the bench establish him as perhaps the deepest and most incisive jurist of American history. Beyond that dimension, his parallel life of philosophical essays and voluminous, ruminating private correspondence have made him the study of historians, ethicist and literary critics, mostly admiring but some dissenting, all for reasons we will explore as best we can.

    • October 17: Lecture starts at 9:30 and ends at 11am

      Louis Brandeis, over the span of a long and active life, experienced four successful careers as a lawyer, progressive reformer, Zionist and Supreme Court justice. He was known as the “People's Lawyer” as well as being called “Isaiah” by his law clerks and Franklin Roosevelt, and has been described by his foremost biographer as an “idealistic pragmatist.” In this session, we will concentrate upon Brandeis as a Supreme Court justice and his decisions in the 1920s on freedom of expression and privacy that continue to instruct and shape modern jurisprudence.

      With respect to freedom of expression we will begin with a discussion of Schenck v. United States (1919) where Holmes, joined by Brandeis and a unanimous court, enunciated the “clear and present danger” test that was the starting point for all subsequent free speech cases. From there we will discuss a series of free speech cases concluding with Brandeis's exceptionally influential concurring opinion in Whitney v. California (1927) where he asserted that free speech is an essential facet of citizenship.

      With respect to privacy, we will focus solely on Olmstead v. United States (1928). In that case, the Supreme Court encountered the problem of the constitutionality of electronic searches. The federal government had begun to tap phones in an effort to enforce Prohibition, and a bootlegger named Olmstead protested that the wiretaps violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” We will discuss Brandeis' great dissent in which he made an affirmative statement endorsing privacy as he declared that the framers of the Constitution had “conferred as against the government, the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” We will conclude the session by discussing Brandeis's enduring relevance in modern America as it pertains to freedom of expression and privacy.

      Speakers: Mitchell J. Sikora, Jr., attended Boston Latin School, Harvard College (A.B.), Boston College Law School (J. D.). and Harvard Law School (LL.M.). He served for two years as a clerk to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court; for seven years as an assistant attorney general of the Commonwealth; for 17 years as a private practitioner; and throughout those periods as a military lawyer in the Army Reserve.

      He joined the Massachusetts Superior Court as an associate justice for 10 years and then the Massachusetts Appeals Court for eight years, until the arrival of the cruel mandatory retirement age of 70. Since then (eight years) he has consulted and lectured on an ad hoc basis, and returned to his favorite liberal arts topics, such as judicial biography.

      Jim Whitters attended Trinity College (B.A.), Boston College Law School (J.D.) and University of Massachusetts Boston (M.A. in American Studies). He served in the United States Navy for 3 ½ years; practiced law in Boston as a litigation partner for two law firms for 26 years; Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission (1983-1987); Board Member, Veterans Legal Services and Massachusetts NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; adjunct professor, American Legal History at Suffolk University Law School, 1997-2010.

    • October 24 and October 31

      Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth should be numbered among America's greatest heroes. He abandoned his role as a successful New England ice merchant to try his luck in the Pacific Northwest. A practical businessman with an adventurous Yankee spirit, he traveled twice across the continent and back—in 1832, and again in 1834—prior to the development of reliable maps or emigrant trails. Wyeth's contributions to westward expansion have been largely overlooked by historians.

      • PART 1 – October 24

        This first session begins with a look at Wyeth's upbringing at the Fresh Pond Hotel in Cambridge, MA, and his early success in the ice trade. In his lifetime, this entrepreneur developed numerous patents, many related to improving the business of harvesting ice. But the rising tide of stories about the untamed Oregon country provided a new target for Wyeth's commercial objectives. In 1832, he formed the Pacific Trading Company and headed for the Columbia River. Along the way, his growing knowledge of the Rocky Mountain fur trade caused a slight detour. This discussion covers the journals he and others kept during this outing and offers intelligence on all Wyeth gleaned during his initial two-year sojourn in the West.

      • PART 2 – October 31

        The second session picks up after Wyeth's return to the Boston area in the fall of 1833 and covers his preparation for a second attempt at realizing a new commercial success—this time as a fur trader. Based on the diaries and letters he and those around him so dutifully kept, Wyeth's foray into the Rockies was bound to be fruitful. But, as the story unfolds, there were many events Wyeth had not foreseen, including stiff competition from the Hudson's Bay Company and other fur men. In 1834, he founded Fort Hall, near present-day Pocatello, ID (which would become an integral stopover for emigrants in the great Western Migration yet to come), but he eventually threw in the towel and returned to Cambridge. This discussion concludes with an examination of his later life as he re-entered the ice trade, developed a brickyard and involved himself in other successful business practices in New England.

      Speaker: Jim Hardee is a nationally known author and lecturer on topics related to the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade. He has been the director of the Fur Trade Research Center since its inception 25 years ago. He has served as an editor for the “Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal”, the annual publication of the Museum of Mountain Man in Pinedale, WY. Hardee has published articles on many fur trade matters and has three books to his credit including a two-volume work: “The Western Expeditions of Nathaniel J. Wyeth”.

    • November 7 and November 14

      If you are thinking about selling your home in the near future, this class is a must!

      Learn how to hire the right agent and what you need to know if you plan on selling without an agent. The class will also cover what's necessary to fix before listing and what isn't, what buyers want, and what costs are associated with selling. The importance of staging and cleaning your home before listing will also be discussed.

      Speaker: Faina Shapiro is a national award-winning realtor, landlord, luxury specialist, property manager, residential remodeling specialist, Board of Assessors member and host of “Let's Talk Real Estate” on 101.3MYFM every Sunday at 9 a.m.

      Shapiro is a licensed real estate agent in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and teaches real estate workshops for different adult communities throughout Massachusetts. She was the number one sales agent in her office in 2021 and received the prestigious RIS Media Real Estate Newsmaker award in 2022.

    • November 21

      What do the ideas and accomplishments of the ancient Greeks, a long vanished people, have to do with the societies and lives of people today? The answer can be concisely summed up in two words: almost everything. Indeed, it can be said with little exaggeration that Western civilization was largely founded by the Greeks and would not exist in its present form without the momentous cultural heritage they imparted. Their architecture, sculpture, political ideas, social and military customs, literature, philosophic and scientific ideas, and language helped in countless ways to shape the cultures and ideas of all later Western lands and peoples.

      These Greek influences exist at all levels of our lives, from the Olympic Games and its various events; to the concepts of democracy, rule of law and trial by jury; to the column-lined architecture of thousands of buildings; to the actors and dramatic and comic plays of our theaters, television shows and movies; to the very basis of science and its persistent attempt to understand the universe and its workings.

      Although gone in body, in a very real sense the Ancient Greeks are still with us in spirit. In fact, it can be argued that that special spirit of theirs has been forever intertwined with our own, helping in many subtle ways to make us who we are.

      Speaker: Historian Don Nardo is the leading author of non-fiction books for young people in the United States, with more than 550 published volumes as of 2022. Although his specialty is the ancient world, particularly Greco-Roman civilization, he has also written award-winning books about the medieval era, as well as about modern civilization. He has also written award-winning books about the medieval era, as well as about modern civilization, including numerous studies of American history, the founding fathers and their writings, the Native American cultures, and the nation's wars.

    • November 28


  • Poetry for the People XVIII: Iconic Poems, Past & Present

    Poetry for the People XVIII will feature poems, both historic and contemporary, which enjoy iconic status. These poems, as well as their authors, are acknowledged as widely recognized and admired as having exceptional influence. All class members are encouraged to contribute their ideas and perceptions of the poems, enriching the discussions for everyone in attendance.

    Teacher: Chuck Kamar received his bachelor's from Boston State and his master's from Boston University. He taught for 34 years in the Newton Public Schools, the last 20 at Newton North High School. In 1998 he won the Paul E. Elicker Award for Excellence in Teaching.

  • The Silk Road: A History of Connections

    How did Caesar get his silk? China is the origin of silk, paper and gun powder. How did Western Europe learn about these things? How do we not know about the Gansu Corridor, Kashgar, Scythians and Samarkand? We shall discuss silk roads as actual routes and as metaphors for the ways humanity has linked itself and created “paths of thought.” Please possess the following books:

    • Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World, Mark Norell, et al.
    • The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan
    • The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History, John Major [See internet archive]

    All books available used at bookfinder.com


    • In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, Denis Belliveau and Francis O’Donnell
    • Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary
    • Lost Islamic History, Firas Alkhateeb

    We shall strive to generate a visual understanding of the Silk Road as well as an intellectual one. The books provide maps of the relevant land, but everyone shall have to imagine conditions of long ago. It's hoped that everyone will contribute to the discussion. For the first class please make a list of 10-15 questions that you'd like answered in the course. Additionally, please read the first 47 pages of Traveling the Silk Road and the Preface and Chapter 1 of The Silk Roads.

    Teacher: Brooks Goddard taught 30 years at Wellesley High School, and 13 years in adult education. He is a world traveler (Egypt in 2021 and France in 2022) and has been on much of the Silk Road including the Khunjerab Pass at the height of 16,200 ft. between Pakistan and China. He is an avid reader (especially of African fiction) and a constant gardener.

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Courses

  • Bright Moments of Jazz & Rock

    This course celebrates the great bands and stars of pop, rock and jazz. We will listen to recordings, watch videos and talk about a wide variety of musicians and bands. Social, historical and musical context will be provided. Examples of the artists included are Aretha Franklin, Michael McDonald, Elvis, James Brown, Fats Domino, the Temptations, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and B.B. King. You will expand your jazz and rock music appreciation and have fun doing it. Come and share your bright moments.

    Teacher: Tom Doran is a bassist/vocalist who plays soul, funk, blues, jazz and rock. In retirement he loves to play music and make abstract art. He loves to talk about music, so if you do too, please join!

  • Discovering the Cosmos, Discovering Ourselves: A Historical Approach to Science & the History of Western Thought

    Sessions 1 – 5. Starts September 12 From the watchtowers of ancient Babylon to the Hubble Space telescope; from Incan priests to Albert Einstein, new discoveries about the cosmos have changed the human experience. Our ancestors probed the mysteries of the universe to discover their place in it, to answer profound questions about origins and survival. Even modern scientists speak of “knowing the mind of God”.

    This course will trace the history of these discoveries as they unfolded and discuss how they affected the ways we think about religion, the search for knowledge, and the meaning of human existence.

    Teacher: Frank Villa taught physics and ran his own company that designed laboratories. He has lectured on a range of scientific topics for many years.

  • Reflections: Contemporary American Society Through a Cinematic Lens

    Beginning with a Korean American immigrant family establishing their home on an Arkansas farm, Minari (2020), we will take a look at cinematic portrayals of contemporary Americans, from the very old to the very young, the affluent to the just getting by, in their pursuit of the American Dream. Our list will include, among others, Four Seasons Lodge (2008) and Nothing Changes: Art for Hank's Sake (2018). Links to the films will be provided. Join us for some outstanding cinema followed by open-ended, stimulating discussion.

    Teacher: David Moore received his master's degree in American Studies from Boston College in 1966. He taught in the History Department at Newton North High School receiving the Charles Dana Meserve outstanding teacher award in 1993. His particular historical interests include classical Greece, American Studies, fin de siècle Europe, and the Holocaust.

  • Stories of Conflict as Seen Through a Narrator's Lens, Part XVI

    We will discuss how narrators' perspectives affect our appreciation of works including selected sonnets by Shakespeare. Our emphasis will be on Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi and Shakespeare's Othello.

    Teacher: Helen Smith has taught at the Winsor School, Newton North and in Armenia, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Georgia, Romania and Zambia. A Smith College graduate, she edits texts about writing and journalism. She is the president of the New England Scholastic Press Association.

  • WRITING YOUR STORY (Memoir, NOT autobiography)

    Maximum Enrollment: 20 If you enjoy writing and sharing stories of your life with a community of writers that will give you constructive feedback, this class may be for you. If you are writing a memoir or simply want to share your stories with your children and grandchildren, most writers find being part of the group inspires them to write more regularly. The best way to learn about memoir writing is to listen to other writers' stories. Everything shared is confidential. Writing is done at home and shared in class. For those who can stay, the class extends to 1 p.m.

    Leader: Sue Edgecomb, retired from teaching for 35 years in the Wellesley schools, has participated in Amherst Writers and Artists workshops for 12 years. Her memoir, Clearing in the West: Navigating the Journey Through Loss, Grief and Healing, was published in July 2021.