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Osher Zooms Its Programs to Kansas Seniors

Linda Kehres, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, was on the job only a few months before the organization was forced to reorganize its program delivery of continuing education programs to area seniors. Face-to-face classes in 2020 were out of the question during the pandemic. The solution was Zoom. Teachers successfully adapted their classes to the popular online platform, and Osher was back in business.

Presently, Osher’s highly-qualified instructors present classes in three weekly 90-minute sessions.  There are no tests, grades or homework.  Classes are scheduled at various times of the day and the week.  There is a $50 fee for each course.  The age of the average participant is 74, but there is no age restriction. 

Over 100 classes are offered this spring, and 46 of them are new offerings. History topics are the most popular and courses are also offered on literature, art, music, current events, religious studies, film, entertainment and geography.  Osher is always look for new teachers, sponsors, and donors. 

The program is a great way to expand horizons at a time when travel and contact with others is limited.

The local Osher Institute was established in 2004 and is affiliated with Kansas University.  Philanthropist and businessman Bernard Osher established a foundation in 1977 to encourage continuing educational opportunities for seniors.  Presently there are over 100 Osher Institutes through out the country. 

What Does It Mean to Be Trauma-Informed?

Kim Polson, Executive Director of Community Children’s Center (CCC), used the acronym ASRI to explain the “trauma-informed” concept. 

Trauma-informed means to be Aware of the prevalence of trauma, Sensitive to its impact, Responsive in order to begin change, and Informed about practices that help those who have experienced trauma to cope with the world.  One of CCC primary roles in Douglas County is to deliver workshops to develop ASRI skills for caretakers and educators of young children. The training can move organizations in all sectors along the trauma-informed continuum.

CCC was founded in 1985 to establish one the first Head Start programs in the country.  When the organization’s Head Start delegate role was eliminated in 2018 by the Federal government, the CCC Board envisioned a new set of tasks for itself in Lawrence and Douglas County.  The new role retains the mission:  “…to bring about a greater degree of social-emotional competence and school success for young children and their families experiencing economic, educational and social challenges by providing caregivers with training, coaching and support.”

CCC recently received funding to develop an online hub for all things early childhood in Douglas County.  The hub will be a community-wide, cross-sector partnership.  The site will provide a  “one-stop shop” for those caring for children, birth to 5 years of age, and will “connect the dots” for creating logical pathways and seamless online navigation. 

Public Art Generates Dialogue

As Rotarians eagerly told stories about their encounters with pieces of art that were special in their eyes, Spencer Museum Director Saralyn Reece Hardy easily confirmed that art delights the public most when it generates dialogue and discussion.  

According to Hardy, art should inspire learning, challenge assumptions, and cause reflection.  No longer do artists wish to be didactic and “tell” the  meaning of what they create.  Rather, the shifting goal of art is to leave the walls of traditional museums and meet the public wherever they are. 

Memorials in particular stimulate public dialogue.  Rotarians shared their personal favorite pieces, sharing the reasons why each was memorable and meaningful:  the KU campanile dedicated to those who served during World War II; field art created by Stan Herd; the buffalo by Jim Patti located on Clinton Parkway & Lawrence Avenue; the shuttle cock sculptures and Monet’s water lilies at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City; the 9/11 Memorial in New York City;  and the monument to Winston Churchill in London, England.  The group acknowledged that the bike racks that Lawrence Central Rotary commissioned and placed around town are also pieces of public art.

JIm Patti’s buffalo sporting a holiday wreath

In Memoriam: John Wilkinson

John Wilkinson

We lost one of our club’s own in 2020 – long-time member John Wilkinson.

In honor of his life, Lawrence Central Rotary has a tree planted at the Rotary Arboretum which he dearly cared about and was on the arboretum committee for many years.

The following is an excerpt from his obituary:

John grew up in Cherryvale. In fact, the town practically reared him. John had a number of jobs including a large paper route along which he regularly collected cinnamon rolls and cookies. He also worked carrying luggage from one station to another until his love of talking too much caused 10 others to show up and take the work.

John had a great love for sports, especially basketball and baseball. One story stated that he won a game with a three-point shot from the far side of the centerline. He also pitched in a baseball game to Mickey Mantle (and Mickey hit one off of him)!

In 1951 it was his turn to go to KU. This was the summer of the big flood. He had a dorm scholarship but the dorm wasn’t built yet. Instead, John was put in a gym annex and then to a space located under the stadium. It was a long, muddy walk to meals and classes. The next year he got a room and a job at the Faculty Club. There he met a freshman named Marianne Anderson. They got married in 1957 and were married for 63 years.

Tree planted in Lawrence's Rotary Arboretum in John's remembrance.

After finishing his law degree, John and Marianne moved to Topeka. He became a research attorney for the Kansas Supreme Court and a law clerk to Judge George Templar. He formed the law firm Waggener, Wilkinson, and Wigglesworth. He lectured on appellate procedure at the Washburn University Law School. He owned and operated Burger King in Topeka which he was given in payment for legal work. He argued a case before the US Supreme Court. It dealt with the rights of indigent defendants. He won the case.

Arts for Everyone, Everywhere

Margaret Weisbrod Morris‘s background in arts education and art therapy makes her an eloquent advocate for the arts.  She relishes her work as Chief Executive Director of the Lawrence Arts Center..  She and her staff strive daily to bring joy to residents of Douglas County and beyond.  

Morris explains that the arts sustain the infrastructure of culture, preserve democracy, and record who we are.  Involvement in the arts correlates to improved school success, employability, and civic engagement.  The arts have an impact on health and wellness and build the trust and empathy that can bring people together.

In addition, the economic impact of the arts is substantial.  The arts make up 4.3% of the U.S. economy and employ 2.04% of the workforce.  In Douglas County, the impact is proportionately even higher.  A dollar spent on the arts in Lawrence has an impact of $24.25.  Arts generate $1.25 million in local revenue.

The Lawrence Arts Center has been able to avoid staff and programming cuts during COVID because of a particular benefactor.  As a result, it has continued to deliver activities and performances that sustain community well-being.  In addition, Morris notes, the organization has found it needed to be creative in a whole new sense, re-inventing its delivery systems to include online tools and devising strategies to become accessible to distant and wider audiences.  Innovative programs include Kitty City and a youth theater production of “The Big One-Oh” in a video-on-demand format.

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