Courses & Events

117 writers have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but only 16 have been women. Setting aside this lack of inclusion, these female writers stand out for their artistry, their contribution to their country's cultures and the universality of the themes they convey with their work. This course will offer a look at the lives and accomplishments of all these women-from Sweden's Selma Lagerlöf in 1909 to the most recent recipient, U.S. poet Louise Gluck in 2020-and most closely at the laureates who wrote in English-Pearl S. Buck, Toni Morrison, Louise Gluck, Nadine Gordimer, Alice Munro and Doris Lessing. Some short out-of-class reading assignments will enhance the study of some of these masters' art if participants decide to delve into the reading. 

Instructor Bio: Robert Weibezahl is a writer, editor, cultural critic and publishing industry veteran who has worked with Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and countless bestselling authors. He has published a number of works of fiction and nonfiction, is an award-winning, internationally produced playwright and writes a monthly literary column for BookPage. Weibezahl has a master's in humanities, a bachelor's in English, and an associate degree in music. He has taught at Osher programs in California, Utah and Hawaii.

July 14-28, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
In the golden age of science fiction, stories of Mars captured the imagination, although the famous "canals" were shown to be illusory and the factual planet was considered to be a dry, inhospitable world. However, fly-by missions, satellites, and landers have discovered a complex history of ancient seas and rivers, with a tantaliz-ing prospect of life. In this class, we will begin with a session that reviews classic books with Martian themes that are still read today or seen in movie adaptations. In the last two sessions, we will follow the history of the missions to Mars and their discoveries that continue to make headlines.

Instructor Bio: Like many other geologists, John Doveton has enjoyed the virtual fieldtrips provided by the Martian rovers as they have explored a multitude of rock formations. The rover imagery and chemical analyses reveal an astound-ing planetary history that no one expected.

June 1-15, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Most of us grew up believing that when Europeans landed on the east coast of the United States, they were met by "savages," people who lived in the forest and were therefore less developed. In reality, the native cultures were more highly sophisticated than many even realize today. This class will review our shared history from the native point of view. We will consider the diverse reasons Europeans first came to America, how vastly different the Native American and European cultures were and why and how relationships that began peacefully evolved into violence in Jamestown, Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Northwest Territory.

Instructor Bio: Gil Nichols is a lifelong student of history and North American Indian cultures. He has participated in Dakota and Lakota ceremonies for more than 35 years. He taught high school social sciences for 30 years, and American Indian studies at William Jewell and UMKC for 14 years. He has also taught for the UMKC SPARK program, and has served as a Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art tour guide for nine years. Gil is also Chair of the Thidaware Native American Garden Project at Line Creek Park in Kansas City.

July 16-30, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Did Jesus have a wife? Was Judas a hero rather than a villain? What of Jesus' youth? Was he a model child or a spoiled brat? What are we to believe about the life and teachings of Jesus now that hitherto unknown gospels have come to light? Which accounts are to be trusted? Indeed, do any narratives of Jesus' public career contain reliable historical information? These are among the questions to be addressed as the course examines selected early Christian gospels, both within and especially outside the New Testament, to learn something of their literary character, their purpose, and the varied images of Jesus they present.

Instructor Bio: Barry Crawford, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of religious studies at Washburn University.

April 15-29, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course discusses how three generations of Spencers led Kansas to the forefront of coal mining and chemical manufacturing. John, the patriarch, his son, Charles, and the grandson, Kenneth, developed a coal/chemical empire from 1867 to Kenneth's death in 1960. During that century their companies became the world's leaders in mechanized mining processes and manufacturers of agricultural fertilizer. We'll also examine the Spencer Foundation's contributions to the arts and culture of the Midwest and nation such as the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. 

Instructor Bio: Ken Crockett was born in Pittsburg, Kansas in a second-generation family of coal miners. He was educated at Central Missouri State University (BA degree) and Washburn University of Law (Juris Doctor). He is the author of two books relative to Kansas mining (Missouri Coal Miners Strike and Kenneth and Helen Spencer, Champions of Culture & Commerce In The Sunflower State).

June 3-17, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The war in Vietnam was the subject of several memorable books and movies showing various perspectives about the war. Some stories were told while the war was going on, and others were done years after the last troops left Saigon. How well did they reflect that time? We will be discussing works about the conduct of the war, the soldiers who fought in it and how the war affected the nation. The books we may discuss include A Bright Shining Lie, Dispatches, The Things They Carried and A Rift in the Earth. Movies may include Go Tell the Spartans, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home. Join us to learn more about this important time in history.

Instructor Bio: Karl Menninger recently retired from a legal career in federal and state government, mostly dealing with issues concerning persons with disabilities. He teaches courses on disabilities and the law and the insanity defense at the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law.

June 28, 2021 to July 19, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)