Flowers blooming on campus

All Life is Learning - April 2023

Director's Note and In this issue

Director's Note

Please mark your calendars and set your clocks! WMU’s Giving Day 2023 is almost here, and I invite all members and others within our community to join me in donating to OLLI. On April 12, for one day beginning at midnight until 11:59 p.m., we're pulling out the fundraising stops to show our support for our beloved OLLI program.

Last year, OLLI had its most successful Giving Day to date! We had 87 unique donors and raised $5,432—an increase of 150% versus the prior year. Your coordinated support also helped us win several Giving Day Challenges, including The Kickoff, The Redeye, and Lunchtime Crunchtime, which placed us in the Top 10 donor-designated programs and added $1,100 bonus dollars to our total. Because of your generous giving, we were able to fund a special volunteer appreciation event in September as well as include live musical entertainment at our Annual Meeting this past November, which I remember many of you enjoyed!

While OLLI is partially funded by WMU, both the Osher Foundation and WMU’s expectations are that OLLI be as self-sustaining as possible. Therefore, fundraising is vitally important to sustain our operations and deliver the quality and variety of programming you have come to expect from us. My goals are to once again surpass our previous Giving Day record with a goal of reaching 100 unique donors and over $7,500 in donations. Gifts made on Giving Day will also be used to continue providing meaningful and enjoyable ways to acknowledge and thank members and volunteers, as well as finding ways to strengthen relationships with instructors that help further enhance the OLLI student experience. I know we can do it with your help!

As we get closer to Giving Day, you can expect to see more communications and reminders from us. The goal is to consolidate all giving on April 12. The easiest way is to give online, and we will share our direct OLLI Giving Day link as we get closer to the day. However, you may also call the WMU Alumni Association at (269) 387-8700 or send a check to WMU University Advancement, ATTN: Gift Processing, 1903 W Michigan Ave, 49008-5403 and include WMU Giving Day and OLLI Operations Fund in the memo line. Be aware that checks must be received by 5 p.m. on April 12 to count toward our Giving Day goals.

No gift is too small—please help our OLLI to once again be one of the largest donor recipients during this year’s Giving Day! 

Thank you in advance for your participation,

Toni Woolfork-Barnes, Ed.D.

Welcome New OLLI at WMU Staff Member

Meet Ms. Madison Watland, who officially joined our office in late February, serving as administrative support for OLLI at WMU. Madison jumped in to help right away and has contributed in numerous impactful ways in just a short time. We are excited to welcome her to the OLLI at WMU team! 

From being a country girl in Iowa to exploring the small city of Kalamazoo, Madison is excited to see what’s in store for her next chapter at WMU. She developed a passion for education while earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Northern Iowa and believes that we should never stop learning. Like our OLLI members, Madison loves to take various courses in her free time. Her other hobbies include volunteering at ARP and taking her dogs on hiking and camping trips. She looks forward to getting to know our OLLI community!



There’s Still Time to Register for Winter-Spring Courses! 

Registering online is the quickest way to secure your spot for the courses you want to take. If you need assistance when registering online, email us at or call (269) 387-4157. Please leave a voicemail; if we cannot answer, we will see it in our email. There is still time to review and register for several April courses – visit the course catalog on our website for the dates and times of the courses listed below:

  • Our Family’s Civil War Flag: It’s 5,000 Mile Journey 
  • SoulCollage 
  • Place Matters! The EDucation IS ON: The Edison Neighborhood Project 
  • Getting Crafty: Understanding and Creating Picture Books 
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Researching Your Family Tree 
  • Western Economic Theories from Colbert to Keynes 
  • Socialism in One City: Guy Lockwood, the Michigan Socialist Party, and the Kalamazoo Municipal Elections of 1912 
  • The Memory and Legacy of Emmett Till: A Story of Geography, History, and Racism 
  • The History and the Literature: “The Lincoln Highway” 


Exciting News for the Senior Reader’s Theater!

We’re thrilled to announce that Dr. D. Terry Williams will join OLLI at WMU Senior Reader’s Theater as the new director. The brainchild of Linda LaRocque, our Reader’s Theater SIG (Special Interest Group) has received national recognition as the first of its kind among the 125 other OLLIs throughout the country! Our program was developed as an intergenerational teaching tool to help students in the healthcare professions better understand the issues their elderly patients may face as they age. Audiences have expanded to include other professionals who work with the elderly as well as those who live in senior residences.

With minimal props and costumes, scripts are read and not memorized—with emphasis being on the story. There is also an opportunity for discussion after each performance between the audience and OLLI cast members, where questions will be asked, and healthy intergenerational dialogue is encouraged! No acting experience is required and participation is free. The only requirement is OLLI membership. Joining in the fun is as easy as clicking on course registration on the OLLI website (, going to SIGs and Special Offerings, and signing up. Our meetings are at Congregation of Moses, Stadium Drive, on April 19 and May 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.



OLLI Cares Fill-A-Trunk Event is scheduled for June. Look for more information in next month’s newsletter.


Join The Ethics Center’s Spring Book Club

WMU's Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and OLLI at WMU are embarking on a new, ongoing relationship. Please consider participating in the Ethics Center’s spring 2023 Book Club. 

Kathy Purnell, J.D., Ph.D., senior coordinator for Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan and instructor in the Department of Political Science at WMU, will lead discussions of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond's forthcoming book, "Poverty, By America."

Desmond, a sociologist, is the director of Princeton University’s successful Eviction Lab. In the book, he urges readers to think critically about policies that punish those experiencing economic hardship instead of promoting belonging and freedom for all. This Book Club coincides with National Fair Housing Month. 

Meetings will take place on Wednesdays via Zoom on April 5, 12, and 19 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. You can register here for the Ethics Center’s Spring Book Club and find more information on their website.

Membership & Marketing

Everything's Coming Up OLLI!

Let friendships your friendships bloom with OLLI! It’s time to celebrate spring, the season of renewal, by cultivating your mind and expanding your knowledge with friends, both old and new. Spread the word about OLLI and enjoy the many courses beginning in April. Make sure you also keep an eye out for announcements about our special member events occurring throughout the year—don't miss the fun! 



Registration time is running out for “The Play That Goes Wrong!”   

Join us May 21 to take in a show at the oldest theatre in Michigan – the Croswell Opera House! After a lovely lunch at JR’s Hometown Grill in Adrian, we’ll head to the Croswell to laugh our way through the delightful Broadway hit, “The Play That Goes Wrong.” This laugh-out-loud sketch comedy combined with an Agatha Christie-style mystery evolves into a hilarious and utterly disastrous play-within-a-play full of missed cues, wrong entrances, falling props, forgotten lines, and even a small fire in a waste basket. In short, get ready for non-stop laughter, physical comedy, and satire!  

  • May 21, 2023

  • $174 for members

  • $189 for non-members

  • April 19 registration deadline

Easy – This type of trip involves moderate walking, such as a theater trip, requiring very short walking distances and boarding/exiting the bus a few times.

Explore America the Beautiful: The RV Industry in Elkhart and the Clyde Butcher Photography Exhibit

OLLI travelers are in for a fun-filled day in northern Indiana on Wednesday, June 21! We begin the day at the RV manufacturer JAYCO’s visitor center in Elkhart, Indiana to watch a short introductory film, followed by a trolley ride to Plant 80 to watch the construction of luxury fifth-wheel RVs up close. The JAYCO company has been manufacturing RVs for over 50 years, helping turn the Middlebury/Elkhart area into the RV capital of the world. 

After igniting your appetite for travel, we’ll head to the Midwest Museum of American Art to be visually astounded by the photography of Clyde Butcher! This traveling exhibit contains over 40 of his works, with many capturing the majesty of our National Parks. The Midwest Museum of American Art also contains a collection of Norman Rockwell lithographs and other notable works of art, which we will be free to tour during our visit.  

Rounding out our theme of exploring the beauty of America, we’ll end our day with a visit to the RV/MH Museum to admire some of the vintage recreational vehicle units that opened the door for many families to travel across our great nation. We know that you will enjoy hitting the road with OLLI so bring a friend along and, as usual, we will include options for a yummy lunch!

  • June 21, 2023

  • $165 for members

  • $180 for non-members

  • May 23 registration deadline

More Strenuous – These trips include varied venues, from museums to exploring neighborhoods, and require boarding/exiting the bus multiple times. There may be stairs, uneven ground, and up to two to three miles total walking. This activity level may be found with overnight trips that entail a variety of venues and varying degrees of walking each day.


Register for either of these trips before it’s too late by calling AAA Nebraska directly at (402) 390-1000, then press 1 from the menu and enter 203 for Dave or 204 for Michelle. The mailing address for AAA Nebraska is 815 N 98th St, Omaha NE 68114.


Wellness Moment

Secrets to Vitality Series

Shirley warms up on bench press under
the watchful eye of her trainer Mike Wolfe.

Introducing Octogenarian (84) Shirley Scott. I have had the pleasure of knowing Shirley as a West Hills member for more than ten years, and in that time, I’ve watched Shirley continuously improve her fitness, in spite of her age. She can regularly be seen bench-pressing 105 lbs., doing planks (an abdominal exercise), and pushing our famous “Prowler” machine with ease. When I think of Shirley, I think of Newton’s first law of motion – objects in motion tend to stay in motion. To find out her secrets to vitality, I sat down with this now-retired WMU professor who previously served as both the chair of English and Dean of the Graduate College.

Shirley began her fitness journey in her mid-forties out of necessity. She was feeling the negative effects of work-related stress and decided to address it. I think we can all agree that serving as the department chair is one of the most underappreciated, high stress jobs in all of academia (my words, not hers). She had read somewhere that exercise was helpful in regard to stress management, as well as the prevention of dementia and other chronic diseases, so she started weightlifting and “slogging,” which is her trademarked term for slow jogging. She must have taken to it because here we are forty years later, and she is still at it!  

Shirley uses her full body to push the
“Prowler” and improve her functional strength.

Shirley’s vitality formula includes:

  • She counts her steps and shoots for 10,000 to 12,000 per day
  • Lifts weights 3 times per week
  • Stretching 4 times per week
  • Includes balance exercises in her regular routine
  • Eats lots of fruits and vegetables and avoids evening snacking
  • Drink 2 quarts of water per day
  • No more than one caffeine drink per day
  • Likes a shot of Jim Beam but not every day



Shirley uses perfect form on her planks,
an isometric abdominal strengthening exercise.

Shirly often enjoys a coffee klatch after a good workout, and adds that it helps to have good genetics, a knowledgeable trainer, and lots of social interaction. She believes that the social and community aspects of West Hills are “remarkable” and a big part of her overall health. Social interaction has a cascading positive effect on our mental and emotional health. “The accountability aspects of the West Hills Community are huge,” Shirley says. If she does not show up, someone is checking in on her.

She has had a few health issues over the years, including a broken arm and going into atrial fibrillation. Shirley attributes her quick recovery to her fitness and her trainer Mike Wolfe. She recently had the best bloodwork numbers come back that she has seen in more than 10 years – decreased blood sugar and LDL, with an increase in HDL. “My doctor put me in the top 10% for everything, including balance,” she reports. Finally, Shirley’s goal is to bench press 110 lbs. by her 85th birthday, and there is not a doubt in my mind that she will!


Shirley and her trainer, Mike Wolfe.

What is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute?

The program was initiated under the auspices of the WMU Emeriti Council and WMUx. OLLI offers intellectually lively and culturally appealing learning experiences. We accomplish this by focusing on intellectual stimulation, personal growth, social engagement and enrichment.  Read more


What do we do?

We offer short courses for one to four weeks. Sessions are usually two hours long. Travel programs are also a part of our offerings. There are no tests and no required homework, just exploring lots of interesting topics.

In the near future we will offer courses in different formats -- noon hour discussions, several sessions in one week, and more evening courses. OLLI courses and activities are developed and produced by its members with the support of the staff of WMUx.

We need your ideas for course topics and instructors. Let us know your suggestions. Call the OLLI office at (269) 387-4157 or send an email. The curriculum committee will review all suggestions.