The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Bradley University (OLLI) is a group of more than 1,000 individuals, age 50 and over, who learn together through three distinct programs: OLLI Classes, OLLI Learning Trips, and OLLI Study Groups.

Here, members can discuss what they learned, what they enjoyed, and offer suggestions to enhance future program offerings.

Take a look at the photos we're taking, and the discussions we're having as OLLI members.

Whether we're in class, in town, or out of town ... we're on the go, having fun, and constantly learning.


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While you're online, be sure to visit our website www.bradley.edu/continue/olli to register for our programs.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nancy Pearl Lecture -- June 8




Nancy Pearl, an award-winning author, celebrated librarian, and regular commentator on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," delighted an audience of 100 during a lecture at Bradley University on June 8.

During the hour-long program, Nancy shared the origins of her love of reading and libraries, explained how her two Book Lust books came to be written, and even talked about the "perils" of a life of reading.

Pearl, who grew up in an unhappy home in lower-middle-class Detroit, spent most of her childhood and adolescence at the Parkman Branch Library, immersing herself in a world of books and the comfort of kindly librarians. At the age of 10, she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: a librarian.

"I wanted others to find books to love as much as I'd loved them," she said. "I believe there is a book that will turn everyone into a reader."

After college, she became a children's librarian and author, penning the well-known Book Lust and More Book Lust, guides to must-read books in hundreds of quirky categories.

She said that although Book Lust listed approximately 1,800 books in 175 categories, she felt guilty about the more the books and authors who were left off the list. "I asked my readers to write in and tell me what I left out," she noted. "I expected five people to write, but got hundreds of emails from people who each listed 200 books I left out."

As a result, a follow-up to Book Lust was requested from her publisher. Pearl, who joked that it should have been titled Book Lust 2: The Morning After, included another 1,200 books in the sequel.

Pearl then ticked off a list of four "perils" to a life of reading:

1. When you learn your vocabulary through a life of reading, you never really know how to pronounce anything. She joked that for years, she pronounced words incorrectly, including segue (see-goo-ey), misled (mice-eld), and belle (belly). When asked how she could possibly mispronounce so many words despite her voracious reading appetite, Pearl responded, "I just tell people I have a reader's vocabulary, not a speaker's vocabulary."

2. When engrossed in a good book and you run into a word you don't know, you often are too lazy to look up the meaning in a dictionary. Pearl related a highly amusing anecdote about context when she told that audience that after reading a book where a character died of consumption, she immediately asked herself, "Well, who ate her?"

3. When enamored of an author and you read book after book in a series, you may begin speaking in a manner that confuses your friends. She said when she was reading the Master and Commander series, set in the early 19th century, she began saying "ahoy" instead of "hello" and getting all kinds of strange looks from others.

4. The most serious peril, according to Pearl, is never being certain if memories are those of your own or those of characters in books you've read. For instance, when describing a dress she wore to her junior prom, Pearl instead began describing the dress worn by a character in the book Double Date. "As a result," she said, "I don't think I remember a thing from my high school years."

At the end of her presentation, she answered questions from the audience. In response to a question about "abandoning" a bad book, Pearl had the following piece of advice: Nancy Pearl's Rule of 50 says that if you're under the age of 50, you've read the first 50 pages in a book, and care only about who marries who or who killed who, turn to the last page. If you're over 50, subtract your age from 100, and that's how many pages you should read before giving up on a book.

"There's nothing that rewards us better for getting older," she explained, "because when you turn 100 you really can then judge a book by its cover."

Nancy Pearl's appearance at Bradley University was made possible in part by Continuing Education and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chicago Gangster Tour -- June 3, 2009



On June 3, 25 OLLI members had yet another unique learning experience: The Chicago Gangster Tour, a trip back in time to experience Chicago during the Roaring Twenties.

Upon arrival in the Windy City, “Shakespeare,” a loud, wisecracking step-on tour guide nattily dressed in a pinstriped suit, suspenders, and fedora, delighted OLLI members with fascinating anecdotes about Chicago’s windiest politicians, rollicking red-light districts, and notorious mobsters as the bus cruised in search of old hoodlum haunts, brothels, gambling dens, and sites of infamous gangland shootouts.

Shakespeare led a two-hour, fact-filled tour of the city, driving past well-known landmarks such as Holy Name Cathedral, which still has a bullet hole in the limestone fa├žade from the assassination of Hymie Weiss; the former Lexington Hotel (otherwise known as “Capone’s Castle”), which Al Capone used as his headquarters; and through Levy District (formerly known as The Devil’s Mile), where vice and corruption once led to a crime rate higher than the rest of the country combined.

The tour took OLLI through Chinatown, Little Sicily, and the neighborhood of Pilsen, home to a building that once housed the famous Schoenhofen Brewery. The building itself is full of lore: Capone used it to brew legal “near beer” then spiked it with rot-gun whiskey; Frank Lloyd Wright once called the structure the perfect example of prairie architecture in America; and it was used during the filming of the orphanage scenes in The Blues Brothers movie.

Seemingly mundane neighborhoods were revealed as the sites of notorious assassinations during the 14 years of Prohibition. An innocuous parking lot on Clark Street was pointed out as the site of the city’s worst mafia murder: the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Al Capone’s elaborate 1929 scheme to kill enemy Bugs Moran. The site has been a parking lot since 1969, when former Mayor Daley tore down the garage to improve the city’s image.

Shakespeare had plenty of anecdotes about the gangsters, too. For instance, the term “bootlegging” was coined by Deanie O’Bannion, a gangster who would hide samples of liquor in 5 oz. flasks in his boots and share them during mass at Holy Name Cathedral. Immigrants from Sicily were employed by Angelo Genna and his five brothers as “alky cookers,” earning $15 a day mixing ingredients for rot-gut whiskey in 5-gallon copper stills. Workers kept $14 of their earnings; the other dollar went to the “flower fund,” used to purchase funeral flowers for employees who were killed during frequent explosions during the cooking process.

It was the anecdotes about the Al Capone, however, that intrigued OLLI members the most. They learned that Capone once sent $10,000 and flowers to a woman injured during an attempt on his life; kidnapped a pianist, forced him to play at his speakeasy for three days, then let him leave after shoving $20,000 in his pocket; and bought a belt that spelled out “Thanks From Al” in diamonds for a newspaper reporter who tipped him about upcoming government raids.

After the tour, the OLLI group headed to Tommy Gun's Garage, Chicago’s only speakeasy dinner theater, for lunch and a musical comedy revue that featured gangsters, flappers, and a raid by the cops. One lucky member of the group, John Maher, was taken on stage for an interactive "sobriety test" and radio show.

Barn Lunch & Learn -- May 21, 2009



It was another spectacular day for a learning trip on May 15, when 23 members attended the Barn Lunch & Learn event.

The day began with breakfast in the Alumni Dining Room, followed by a two-hour presentation by renowned barn expert Bob Sherman. His lecture included information about the American barn's European antecedents, an examination of the nomenclature, and a discussion of the functional uses of farm structures.

Participants then boarded a charter coach to look at rural structures and farmsteads throughout Peoria County. The first stop was the Hauk farmstead, which has been in the same family for more than 150 years. The barn, constructed in 1850, includes hand-hewn timbers and hay mow areas currently used for storage. The rustic corn crib was built in 1905 to hold earn corn for livestock feeding. Today, the crib is used for storage, since corn in shelled in the field by modern combines and stored in closed metal corn bins.

Other stops included the Howarth barn and house, circa 1844, one of only 12 stone structures in the county during the 19th century; the Tom Coyle farm near Trivoli; the Phelps barn in Elmwood, and the Virgil Janssen barn in Hanna City.

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