How Volunteering with the American Language Center Led to This

Leonard Blum Russia 1

Leonard and Bonnie Blum with ALC student Lena in front of an entrance to the Kremlin and Red Square.

My name is Leonard Blum and I am an Osher member. Lena, a student from Moscow, who was enrolled in a class of the American Language Center, asked our Osher class for volunteers to aid their students in learning and practicing English. Coincidentally, my wife, Bonnie, and I were planning a trip to Russia. I asked Dylan if he could please ask Lena to contact me to discuss Moscow. She did. Lena came to our home; we had a delightful meeting with her and she gave us valuable information about her city. Lena then tutored my wife in the Russian language. Our time in Moscow coincided with Lena being at home and we were fortunate to have her as not only our guide, but our dinner companion for three out of four nights we were in Moscow. I thank the Osher Institute for facilitating our introduction to Lena, which worked out for our mutual benefit.

Teaching Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism

By Don Parris

Don Parris

Don Parris

I have been teaching Buddhism over the past thirty plus years, and the most frequently asked question of me is how I got into Buddhism and particularly Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism, a discipline that requires intensive study of Theravāda (classical/individual vehicle) Buddhism for seven years, Mahāyāna (universal vehicle) Buddhism for seven years, and Vajrayāna (Tibetan/Tantric diamond vehicle) Buddhism for seven years. It all began with a telephone call.

The call came as my wife and I were chillaxing on the pristine crescent bay sands of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, sipping mai tais complete with little pink parasols spiked in pineapple wedges. A “Grand Budapest Hotel” Zero Moustafa type lobby boy paraded by, in red pillbox hat, searchingly pinging his xylophone, “Call for Mr. Parris. Call for Mr. Parris.” I took it on the house phone in the Mauna Kea’s stunning blue tiled entryway.

“Don! This will change your life!” Frank, my mentor in the global Big-Law firm at which I was a young associate grunt, always spoke emphatically and was not one for such niceties as “hello” or identifying himself. Straight to the chase; and, as always, he was right—emphatically so.

6With that salutation, the force-of-nature that was the Senior Partner Chair of our firm conscripted me and my ever-valiant wife into a trek to the base camp of Mount Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world—“The Five Treasures of the High Snow”—toward the eastern end of the Himalayas. I had never even heard of the mountain’s home, the Kingdom of Sikkim. However, our alpine guide, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, regaled us for weeks with stories not only of Sikkim, but also of the Himalayas, Tibetan Buddhism, Sherpas, bodhisattvas, tantra, yetis, and his and Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1953 first summit of Mount Everest. After his ascent, Nepal, India and Sikkim fought over Tenzing’s provenance; but first, foremost and forever, he was a Sherpa. Throughout that first trek, the love, care and selflessness the Sherpas and Sherpanis extended to my sometimes struggling wife opened my eyes, mind and heart to a far more evolved life form than the one prowling the hallways of Century City high rises.

4As Frank had prophesized, the Buddhist cultural Himalayas became my life-changing path, journey and sanctuary. I began “taking refuge” not in the Three Jewels of Buddhism—the Buddha (teacher), the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community)— but, in the more western sense of the phrase. I took refuge in the Himalayas where my clients and office couldn’t reach me; and, if I be completely honest, visa versa. However, for me, it soon became less about escape, and more about quest and inner exploration. I eventually took refuge formally in the Three Jewels and became what Buddhism calls a “stream entrant:” one who enters onto the Path seeking a different perspective and way of engaging life. Decades of learning, scholarship, teaching, guiding and practicing later, I’m still swinging through the branches on that evolutionary continuum; but hopefully soon will be able to walk upright.

Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism is an orally transmitted and visually encoded tradition. The Buddha cautioned that its accelerated path to enlightenment—nirvāṇa—was as dangerous as it was expeditious; and, accordingly, had to be undertaken only with the guidance of an appropriate teacher or guru. So, eventually, when fully prepared—or so I thought—I introduced myself to my proposed first teacher, the venerable Geshe Phurba in the alter room of his Himalayan monastery. It was not an audition to be proud of. I bowed, I namasted, I invoked an air of solemnity, and ventured, “I wish to become a Buddhist; I wish to become enlightened; I wish to practice anuttarayogatantra,” showing off a bit with the last to convince him I was learned in his ways, familiar with the highest tantric practices, and serious disciple material.

7His response: “Later.”

Me: “No.” I actually said “no”—to Yoda. By that time I was a partner in the global Big-Law firm; so it was knee-jerk, maybe even genetic. Recovering quickly, I dialed it way back and asked, “Why? It’s already late for me master; I need to start now.”

Geshe Phurba: “You can not. You have no mind.”

Oh, I thought, just a simple misunderstanding. After all, it’s not like I had filled out a formal application for the position. “I have a mind,” I informed him, and promptly proved the opposite by listing everything under my professional CV caption “Awards and Honors:” PBK, Coif, Law Review Editor, JD, Supreme Court clerkship, Big-Law partner . . . .

“Stop!,” Geshe interrupted. “There, you have no mind!” He looked pained, as though it gave him a headache just trying to think down to my level.

Finally, losing all conceit and using his honorific title, I simply asked, “What do I do, Rinpoche?”

“First,” he said, “get a mind. Observe, study, learn, critique, focus, meditate, understand, and practice. Then, teach.”5

“But what about enlightenment?” I blurted out.

Response: “Later.” I had the uneasy feeling we were right back where we started, only much further behind. “Please, Rinpoche, will you help me?”

And he promptly got up and walked out.

Since I was still in the alter room, I did not actually swear; but I channeled it through every fiber of my body.

Eventually Geshe Phurba returned. He unrolled a grimy scrolled painting—a thangka—and hung it on the wall by a small window. He then laid an old frayed rug down before it, motioned me to sit there, and directed me, “Observe, study, learn.”

Don Parris's classroom

Don Parris’s classroom

I had no idea—none—at all. But it felt like a test, so I began studying the image. An hour and a half later, he brought me a cup of foul-smelling and fouler-tasting yak butter tea. It’s an odd and challenging concoction of black brick Chinese tea, yak milk churned to butter, and a generous scoop of salt; all of which is whipped into something of thick soup texture. The resultant taste bears little resemblance to tea, but it is chain-chugged throughout the Himalayas.

An hour after the proffered tea, Geshe Phurba returned, motioned me to sit next to him, and asked what I had observed, studied and learned. “Thank you, Jesus” I mumbled silently. I recited my near-photographic-memory description of the eidetic thangka image: details of the creature holding in his fangs and claws a disc of pictographic concentric circles, of the twelve outer ring images, of the six inner panels including one man chopping down another’s tree, the people with bloated stomachs breathing fire, the wretched souls being boiled, sawed, flayed and dismembered, and of the pig, snake and rooster chasing each other in the central hub. Nailed it!

2My master shook his head with what I chose not to recognize as profound disappointment, and asked me again what I had learned. I asked what he meant. He asked me to leave.

And that was the end of my first teaching with my master.

I had been egocentric, not properly intentioned, and not ready to begin. He, however, was infinitely patient, and had actually accepted me as his student. Decades later, I am still studying that image of the Bhavachakra—The Wheel of Life—and I am still learning its teachings. And I have, for decades, as my teacher wished, been teaching Buddhism.

The second most frequently asked question of me is what my classes are like, such as my Summer Quarter 2016 course on Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism. I should note my conviction that you cannot simply intellectualize your way along the 1Vajrayāna/Tantrayāna Path. It is a bit like learning a foreign language; it ultimately requires some period of full immersion in situ. Living in the Himalayas and particularly in a monastery or gompa, being a part of the Buddhist culture and environment, and joining its rhythm and flow, is integral to understanding the Vajrayāna and particularly its Tantric technology. Otherwise, it’s like reading the operator’s manual without ever actually seeing or using a computer.

So, in our course, I’ll complement lectures and textual scholarship with (literally) hands-on, decoded visual components including statues, iconography, artworks, thangkas, ritual objects and artifacts. From our classroom chairs, we’ll (virtually) go on a pilgrimage, explore monasteries, enjoy a festival/teschu, travel throughout the Buddhist Himalayas, and live among the people of the snows as they go about their daily spiritual lives.

On the experiential side, since this is a contemplative tradition, I’ll try to devote (time permitting) the last five to ten minutes of a few classes to sample abbreviated guided meditations, appropriate for beginners or practitioners, of various types and levels of practice from calm abiding mindfulness, to insight-based investigation, wisdom awareness transformation, and finally just a taste of the anuttarayogatantra or unexcelled yoga meditation. For those who wish to participate, the meditations can be done either in classroom chairs or on the floor (bring your own cushion).

Don Parris's classroom

Don Parris’s classroom

The course will analyze the paradigms of classical Buddhism (Middle Way, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, and so forth) without which we cannot understand the more esoteric teachings of the tantra. We’ll explore what is—and, equally important, is not—the Buddhist meaning of suffering/dukkha, no-self or non-self/anātman, impermanence and emptiness/shūnyatā, rebirth and the Bardo Thödol/The Tibetan Book of the Dead, nature of reality, and nirvāṇa. The “great schism” of Mahāyāna Buddhism introduced transformative changes in classical Buddhism based upon penetrating philosophical, scientific and psychological investigations and analyses, which we’ll consider in overview. The propagation of Buddhism into the Himalayas encountered and assimilated the indigenous animistic/shamanic Bön religion. The result of these influences was the “Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma”—Vajrayāna Buddhism—with its paradigm shifts, and singular teachings and practices rooted in the tantra. Throughout, we’ll take a look at the architecture, dance, music and fine arts, and the role they play in Buddhism in the Land of Eternal Snows.

3Most importantly, I want to encourage free, open and intelligent class discussion and participation on the topics addressed in each session of the course.

Don Parris will teach Tibetan Tantric Buddhism this summer on 8 Tuesdays, 1-3pm, Jun 21-Aug 9, in the Gayley Center.

Perry Wolff’s Final Documentary and Great Accomplishments






On September 3, Perry Wolff screened his final documentary at the Belmont Village in Westwood. He moved to Lake Oswego, Portland on September 28. We will miss him.

Perry Wolff won numerous Emmy and  Peabody Awards during a long career as an executive producer for ”CBS Reports” and other news programs, but after he retired from CBS news, he made a series of art films for public broadcasting, including Images of Jesus, which won the Religious Broadcast of the year award, Michelangelo Restored, The Impressionists, van Gogh, Picasso, and An Essay on Matisse, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1996. In all he received fifteen Emmy awards and fourteen Peabody Awards, as well as numerous Writers Guild, Du Pont and Polk awards.

An OLLI interview in 2011 with Perry Wolff can be viewed here:

A 2-hour interview with Perry Wolff conducted at the Belmont Village Westwood on February 27, 2015 can be seen in segments here:

Four Must-Reads for the Serious (or Not-So-Serious) Foodie, Part II

DSC_0149Instructor Carlo Coppola led an enthusiastic group through his spring course, Four Must-Reads for the Serious (or Not-So-Serious) Foodie, Part II. This course is a lively inquiry into food history through the eyes of Margaret Visser in Rituals of Dinner, Stewart Allen’s In the Devil’s Garden, Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork and William Sitwell’s AHistory of Food in 100 Recipes. Storytelling and historical reflection are shared by Coppola as he organizes the vast information presented into bitesized, easily digestible pieces. 

Field trips include a tour of LACMA to view art celebrating food and feasting, while the conclusion of the course was marked with a fete including recipes prepared by the students from the Sitwell book.  The beautiful garden setting shared by one of the participants was the perfect back drop.  Students each took on a dish from the menu pulled together by Coppola, who himself tackled Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.

Those looking for an interactive, hands-on history of culture and cuisine will find Coppola’s knowledge, passion and dedication to the topic an educational and enjoyable banquet.

Lisa Deutsch
Culture and Cuisine Consultant

DSC_0155 DSC_0159


Tuesday, April 21, 2015 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM UCLA Royce Hall, Room 190

An estimated 400,000 prisoners at Auschwitz, both Jewish or non-Jewish, were tattooed with serial numbers, first on their chests and then their left arms; only some several thousand survivors are still alive today.

This beautiful and moving documentary tells the personal stories of Auschwitz survivors now living in Israel, and the meaning their tattoos took on in the years following the war – for themselves and, recently, for their grandchildren. Numbered explores the phenomenon in Israel of grandchildren of survivors having their grandparents’ numbers tattooed on their own arms to preserve the memory of their relatives and as witnesses to history. Guided by testimonies and portraits of these survivors and their families, the film’s protagonist is the number itself, as it evolves and becomes both a personal and collective symbol from 1940 to today.

Director:Uriel Sinai, Dana Doron Producer: Hilla Medalia, Neta Zwebner-Zaibert

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. RSVP requested.

To RSPV please follow the following link:

Come Meet Our International Students!


Our American Language Center seeks volunteers to help international students practice English in their advanced speaking class. These students are ESL learners who want to improve their writing skills for personal, professional, or academic reasons. Our OLLI members will be interviewed by the students so that the students can practice speaking English in a live setting.  The previous sessions were great successes enjoyed by all and we hope to repeat the experience. Volunteers are needed for the following Tuesdays:

  • April 7, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-680. The theme is family!
  • May 5, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-681. The theme is travel!
  • June 4, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-682. The theme is hobbies!

Intercultural Mixers

April 28, 2015 and May 28, 2015
1:15p – 2:30p, 1145 Gayley Center

OLLI members interested in meeting international students for intercultural discussion can arrange group exchanges through Bob Baldwin, Academic Advisor at the American Language Center (ALC), UCLA Extension. Mixers consist of 10 – 15 international students who meet with an equal number of OLLI members. Mixers are conducted like a “speed-dating” session, with pairs (consisting of one OLLI member and one ALC student) meeting for 10 minutes per pairing. Questions are provided, but participants are free to talk about anything they like. Mixers can be English-only or bilingual (subject to there being sufficient numbers of ALC students who speak a language which OLLI members wish to practice). For further information, contact Bob at  or (310) 794-2714.

Language Partners Program (LPP):

The LPP, which has been in operation for over 25 years, provides the opportunity for members of the UCLA and local community to meet international students enrolled at the American Language Center (ALC), UCLA Extension, to improve participants’ language skills and intercultural awareness. The LPP is a completely voluntary program, with participants meeting at times and in public locations based on mutual convenience. Exchanges can be bilingual (if OLLI participants want to practice a foreign language in exchange for an equal amount of English) or English only (for intercultural exchanges). Most participants meet in pairs or small groups and engage in free conversation. Interested parties can contact Bob Baldwin, the ALC Academic Advisor, for an LPP application; once the application is submitted, he will then make the necessary match-ups and introductions. For further information, contact Bob at or (310) 794-2714.


It Is Never Too Late For A Thrill

To celebrate her 100th birthday, the daring Georgina Harwood decided to do something more exciting than birthday cake and a family gathering – instead she went sky diving in South Africa and two days after her great jump, swam with the great white sharks. The daredevil began her new hobby of sky diving when she turned 92 and has done the tadem jump 3 times since. In regards to her experience swimming with sharks, she mentioned on her interview with Huffington Post: “I’m so glad I did it, a special experience in my life time, I just can’t compare it to anything else.”

To read more about Georgina Harwood visit:



Frank Sinatra: More than Swagger. . . much more.



By Earl Schub

This year marks the centennial of the birth of Frank Sinatra and soon the festivities will commence. By the time the actual birth date comes up on December 12, we will be treated to all manner of testimonials, articles, TV specials and, most surely, several more books to add to the existing imposing and impressive collection. And this is as it should be. Probably no other entertainer – no other singer, surely – has left such an indelible mark on his times and, in fact, most certainly on times to come, if one is to judge by the playing time and references and, yes, homage accorded Sinatra since the day he left the stage on May 14, 1998. The 2,000 recorded titles made over a period that spanned seven decades will always be with us, and that was the legacy he wanted to leave us, since it was in the familiar and congenial setting of a recording studio with an orchestra and a handful of close friends that FS felt most comfortable.

The word, which will pop up again and again as the tributes pour forth, is “swagger”, as if this one aspect of a complex personality and a unique singing style was the most important thing that both defined him and separated him from his contemporaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. “Swagger” is a comparatively new addition to the Sinatra mystique, reaching its largest audience, no doubt, when Bono, the lead singer of the rock band U2, presented the long overdue Legend Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 1994 Grammy Awards, and proclaimed that “Rock ‘n’ roll people love Frank Sinatra because Frank Sinatra has got what we want: swagger and attitude. Bad attitude. I’m not going to mess with him – are you?” Regrettably, this image of arrogance and menace – and isn’t that what “swagger” and “bad attitude” convey?’ – has clung to Sinatra and, being the savvy showman that he was, Sinatra preferred to let it go at that while performing deeds of kindness and compassion privately. But the point is that so much of why Sinatra was different and why he matters is obscured by making “swagger” the key if not, sole, reason why his body of work continues to be celebrated.

Pete Hamill, in his excellent essay, Why Sinatra Matters, published just months after the singer’s death, suggested that a singer’s talent should be measured against four criteria: Voice, Diction, Taste and Attitude. Sinatra scores high on the first two. His voice, pristine during the 1940’s and ‘50’s and burnished but still quite beautiful in the ‘60’s and into the ‘70’s possessed a solid technique which never deserted him; his ability to replace his Hoboken, New Jersey inspired diction with one which was impeccable in its clarity and projection is legendary. It was in taste and attitude, however, where Sinatra separated himself from the many other successful and admired singers of the period. In these two crucial areas he was off the charts – unparalleled.

I submit that a nearly infallible musical Taste was the bedrock of Sinatra’s artistry.

If you were a youngster who liked music and, especially, if you were gifted with a musical ear, growing up in the 1920’s and ’30’s was a veritable feast. The greatest composers of American popular music – Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and a bit later Richard Rodgers and others – were creating the “in” music of the day, songs which become our country’s gift to the world and, in later years, comprised what came to be known as “The Great American Songbook.” Moreover, radios that could be listened to (and heard by all) in the home, were now available and the burgeoning number of stations, eager to fill their programming hours, were playing the music written by these masters of melody and their lyricists. Phonographs, which until 1921, were using records created acoustically with resulting indistinct orchestral sounds were now able to record electrically and the difference was truly remarkable. In 1927, talking pictures exploded on the entertainment scene and the studios rushed to film musicals. By the early ‘30’s, even the venerable Metropolitan Opera began its iconic broadcasts of Saturday matinees. All of this was available and to a young Frank Sinatra who early on indeed showed he had a musical ear and an uncanny ability to memorize lyrics, it must have seemed like heaven on earth with the Garden of Eden, the nation’s mecca of music, Manhattan, clearly visible right across the river. How could he not develop a superior taste for the best when he was surrounded by Caruso recordings, Met broadcasts, and an avalanche of records and radio programs that featured the very best popular music America has ever produced? And then, when young Frank was 16, he heard and carefully listened to the singing of Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo. Both men reigned supreme with their recordings, and, in particular, Crosby in a string of movie musicals that was to last for more than forty years. Columbo, the son of Italian immigrants, must surely have served as a role model, albeit briefly, because he died tragically in 1934 at the age of 26. By then, Sinatra had already decided on a singing career and Crosby became his idol, not so much because of his crooning style, but because he had gone from a band singer to a phenomenal career as a solo artist in recordings, films and radio. In fact, Sinatra decided early on that he was going to be different. In an article in Life magazine, he recalled, “It occurred to me that maybe the world didn’t need another Crosby. I decided to experiment a little and come up with something different. What I finally hit on was more the bel canto Italian school of singing without making a point of it. It was more difficult than Crosby’s style – much more difficult.” Indeed it was. This tasteful, time-tested tradition of vocal training dates back to the early 18th Century and stresses a highly developed skill of legato, a technique that calls for smooth, sustained singing with breath support, evenness of tone and urges the strategic use of specific vocal ornamentation. No other singer of popular songs has ever managed this demanding and disciplined technique as well as Frank Sinatra. Incidentally, Crosby’s assessment, several years later, was, “A singer like Frank Sinatra comes along once in a lifetime. But why did he have to come along in my lifetime?”

While Sinatra never lacked an appreciation of his own gifts – here’s that word “attitude” again, but more of that in a bit – he knew from the start, after working with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey bands that his different style of singing could only be truly appreciated if backed by orchestrations of the highest caliber. If his voice and way with words were the jewels, a worthy setting was required to show them and the songs off to the best advantage. His taste in selecting arrangers to work with him was uncanny and the scope and quality of his work is a testimony to his ability, to paraphrase the Bard of Avon, to suit the words to the music; the music to the words. Axel Stordahl during the Columbia years (1943-1952), Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins and Billy May in the defining Capitol Records decade (1953-1962) and Johnny Mandel, Neil Hefti, Don Costa, Ernie Freeman, Quincy Jones, Robert Farnon and Claus Ogerman along with Riddle and Jenkins, when Sinatra recorded for Reprise Records (1960-1984) were his eager and indispensable collaborators and Sinatra never failed to give them credit when he appeared in the many concerts that formed the major part of his activities during the final twenty years of his life. His faith in them and his taste in choosing these gifted musicians, was justified time and again.

His interpretation of songs was guided by two principles: Less is More and Content dictates Form. Unlike many performers who are over the top, embellish, try to overwhelm, Sinatra, especially in the ballads, was restrained and understated. You had to listen carefully and, in so doing, were drawn into the music and, most important, the message and could respond empathetically to the story he was telling us. Even upbeat songs were more an invitation to join in the fun than to simply observe someone having a good time. By his giving “less”, we were able to enjoy it “more”. It was a total commitment to the lyrics and their meaning that informed his decisions regarding tempo and dynamics. The “content” of the song dictated the “form” he would give it. Because of his consummate taste, he made music into his own form of poetry and, in the process became our own 20th century troubadour.

Attitude? Well, there’s little doubt that he wanted to be seen as a “tough guy”, especially after his career careened downward in the late 1940’s and he lost his agent, movie and recording contracts and had to “re-invent” himself. Often he would act out the role with an inexcusable relish. Thereafter, no one would ever mistake him for the shy, awkward, vulnerable “Frankie”, an image he projected at the start of his career. But this had nothing to do with his singing. “When I sing, I’m honest,” he often said and in those performing moments when he was probably most truly alive, his attitude changed with each song just as a good actor must play many parts. Sure, in some songs such as “Come Fly With Me” he had “swagger” but oh, what sensitive introspection he brought to “Here’s That Rainy Day”, and such exposed need and longing in “I’m a Fool to Want You.” Frank Sinatra wore many masks and played many roles; his “attitude” was ever-changing but his supreme good “taste” was a constant. Because he was an accomplished actor when he sang, he transferred this talent to some but not all of his movies. To see his “Less is More” and “Content dictates Form” in action, check out the scene on a train when he meets Janet Leigh for the first time in “The Manchurian Candidate.” While the quantity (and some of the quality) of his film work is impressive and his personal appearances always attracted a large and enthusiastic audience, it is his studio recordings that best display the unique, often overwhelming, combination of Voice, Diction, Taste and Attitude that make Frank Sinatra an artist for the ages.

Hamill concludes: “He made many of us wiser about love and human loneliness. And he was still trying to understand what it was all about. His imperfections were upsetting. His cruelties were unforgivable. But Frank Sinatra was a genuine artist and his work will endure as long as men and women can hear, and ponder, and feel. In the end, that’s all that truly matters.”

A man of many inconsistencies – – but, in his art, never a lack of taste.

Happy Birthday, Frank . . . and many more.



Earl Schub began teaching at The Osher Institute at UCLA Extension in 2006 and has never lost his sense of joy at sharing his experiences and insights with large classes of men and women who share his love of the human singing voice whether in opera or the popular field.


Seeing Is Believing: Mars, the Moon, and Stars

Photo of the Moon taken on a camera and placed on the eyepiece of the 60" telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

Photo of the Moon taken on a camera and placed on the eyepiece of the 60″ telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

OLLI members enrolled in Seeing Is Believing: Mars, the Moon, and Stars enjoyed a special treat on Saturday, January 7. They were taken by chartered bus to the top of the Angeles Crest Forest to look through the 60-inch telescope at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, considered the birthplace of modern astronomy. Highlights included  craters on the Moon, globular clusters, planetary nebulae, and stars and the grand finale — Saturn and its rings. Luckily for us, the Session Director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory 60-inch telescope happens to also be the instructor of this annual OLLI course.

Some comments from students:

It was low risk to take a class in astronomy for the first time.  Am I delighted that I did!  I had no idea how meaningful it would be and expand my own limited universe. Mt. Wilson made me feel so much more intimate with the skies.  It was a connection that gave me a whole new appreciation and curiosity for something that I never had expected to encounter in my life.  Shelley Bonus’s teaching style is inclusive, entertaining and rich with opportunities to ask questions, no matter how elementary.  She makes learning FUN!

The trip to Mt. Wilson gave new meaning to “special”! Now I know what an “out of this world” experience is. It raised so many philosophical issues for me that will give me lots to think about in the coming years.

The class was followed by an incredible field trip to the Mount Wilson Observatory for a night of star and moon gazing. It was an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Going to the Mt. Wilson Observatory and viewing the Moon, Saturn, Mars, globular clusters, planetary nebulae were the highlights of the class and “out of this world.”

If all instructors had the dynamic presentation and informed and informative content as was delivered by Shelley Bonus, there would be no drop out rate and all places of learning would be overflowing. There is room for discussion; all questions are considered. Exemplary!


Saturn through the 60" telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

Saturn through the 60-inch telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

The 60" telescope inside the dome. Photo by Janet Greene.

The 60-inch telescope inside the dome. Photo by Janet Greene.

Session Director and Instructor, Shelley Bonus. Photo by Mary Ann Wilson

Session Director and Instructor, Shelley Bonus. Photo by Mary Ann Wilson

The moon through the 60" telescope. Photo by Janet Greene

The moon through the 60-inch telescope. Photo by Janet Greene