Life-Long Learning

That Fort Lewis College is a boon for Durango is hardly news. The economic benefits alone represent a major part of the town’s business and civic sectors. But what is more remarkable is the extent to which the school and its intellectual influence are woven into the surrounding community.

A splendid example of that is FLC’s Life-Long Learning program, and this fall’s lecture series highlights that in a dramatic fashion. A series of 10 lectures, all open to the public and offered at no cost, it covers a wide range of seemingly unrelated topics. Except that they are all linked by two factors: They represent the kind of subjects that intrigue curious minds, and they are topics that require a specialized expertise to explain.

That a college the size of the Fort can field such expertise – and that the individuals involved can call Durango home – is the most remarkable part of the program. Consider:

This year’s series starts (Sept. 19) with a talk on “Spanish-indigenous interactions in the late colonial era.” As with all the lectures, the title is appropriately academic-sounding, but think about what that means. It is a significant part of the story of how the Southwest became what it is, and a part that is largely overlooked. How fascinating, and how great that the speaker is Jay Harrison, director of FLC’s Center of Southwest Studies.

Next is a talk (Sept. 26) on “West Nile Virus – its history in the United States and current concerns.” The presenter for that one is Don Bruning, whose résumé includes 37 years with the Wildlife Conservation Society and consulting with countries worldwide. And if the title sounds dry, think what Tom Clancy might make of the fact that there is no vaccine for West Nile.

That will be followed (Oct. 3) by “Opera for dummies, snobs and everyone in between.” The lecturer will be Judith Reynolds, an art and music critic who also teaches art history at FLC and draws a twice-monthly political cartoon for the Herald. Her talk is tied to the launch of the second season of FLC’s live Saturday transmissions of the Metropolitan Opera.

After that (Oct. 10) will be a talk on “Conservation in Ecuador: Goals, challenges and implications for global ecology.” That will be delivered by Sebastian Jurado, described as “a long-time environmental educator and Ecuadorian guide.”

Then (Oct. 17) retired professor Marilyn Garst will speak on “History of the piano (1700-present) with illustrations in sound.” The music director for Durango’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Garst will give her presentation in Roshong Recital Hall.

The series continues (Oct. 24) with a talk titled “Making sites: Early Preservation at Mesa Verde and the Four Corners” by Frank Matero from the University of Pennsylvania. After that (Oct. 31) it moves on to “Global warming: What do we really know?” by Ike Turiel, who worked for years at UC Berkeley’s National Laboratory. Sylvester Allred, a retired professor of biology, will then (Nov. 7) speak on “Tassel-eared squirrels and Ponderosa pines: A relationship of necessity.”

The program continues with a talk (Nov. 14) on “Traveling through central European countries” delivered by Durangoan Frank Fristensky.” And it concludes (Nov. 21) with “Women in Islam: A world of contradictions” by Dennis Aronson, who spent eight years living and working in three Middle Eastern countries.

Few people are likely to find all 10 topics to their liking – although in Durango it would be surprising if there were none. But everyone should find something challenging and stimulating in this series. It is a delight to have such offerings in our community.

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