Jan 142013

By Jane Dail

Monday, January 14, 2013

More than 200 people gathered at the City Hotel and Bistro on Saturday afternoon to learn about two common interests: North Carolina history and what impression women have made on it.

The event was part of ECU’s Lifelong Learning Program’s Spring Kickoff, where older adults came to learn from the lecture and about the program itself.

Randell Jones, a storyteller and award-winning author, spoke about famous and infamous women in North Carolina’s history, citing his book “Scoundrels, Rogues and Heroes of the Old North State.”

His book features 67 historical figures, many of whom are women who broke the norms of their times.

“In a search of our family roots, perhaps we all hope to find someone who is really interesting in our past or maybe someone who is famous,” Jones said. “But let’s face it: Famous is OK, but finding someone who is infamous, now that’s something to talk about.”

Jones entertained the audience with true stories, including one about Frances Culpeper, a woman who married three governors during Colonial times, a female pirate who romanced the infamous pirate Calico Jack, and female sharpshooter Annie Oakley’s ties to North Carolina.

“Two days before Halloween in 1901, Annie Oakley almost died right here in North Carolina,” Jones said. “The show (she hosted with Buffalo Bill) was aboard a train heading from Charlotte to Danville, Va., when a freight train pulled out on the track near Lexington. The head-on collision seriously injured Annie Oakley.”

Later on, Oakley came to Pinehurst and gave shooting lessons at sporting resorts, Jones said.

The lifelong learning event helped solidify people’s interest in class offerings, and also helped the program grow, an official said.

“The whole purpose of these kickoffs is not just to get people to sign up for the classes,” said Ron Kemp, chairman of the LLP’s advisory committee. “Our main goal is to get members to get people active on committees.

“We’ll always be affiliated with the university, but the goal for this whole program is to be operated and maintained by the membership with maybe a full-time director one day,” Kemp said. “Right now, the university has been kind enough to give us support.”

The Lifelong Learning Program, for people 50 and older, started about four years ago with a conversation Kemp had with people at East Carolina University.

“Several years ago, someone came to us and said, ‘I’ve worked with a lifelong learning program at another institute, and I’d like to see one here,’” Clayton Sessoms, director of the office of Continuing Education for ECU, said. “Our success thus far is beyond what we expected, in terms of beginning the program just barely a year and a half ago.”

Kemp said he pushed and worked to start LLP in Greenville to keep minds in the community active.

“Lifelong learning programs are like health clubs for the mind,” he said. “We serve anyone over 50, but the bulk of our members are 65 and over because most people, if they’re still working, they really don’t have time.

“It’s mostly retirees,” Kemp said. “It gives them a way to not only stay active but learn new things and also meet people.”

Catherine Billingsly, advisory council for LLP, said she facilitates a writing class and has created new friends through the program.

“It keeps people doing, active and interested and interacting with other people,” Billingsly said. “Sometimes as you age, you can tend to get kind of isolated. People come together (at LLP).”

Billingsly said some of the classes she looks forward to taking include sushi making and quilting, though she wishes she could take more.

“I have to restrict myself because I could take them all,” she said. “I could sign up for all of them.”

Kemp said in the program’s third fully functioning semester, it has 225 members with hopes to expand to 300 soon.

“We’ve talked to other lifelong learning programs around the country, and we’ve visited three here in North Carolina,” he said. “They all tell us the success rate here has been incredible, that most people take five years to get to 300 members. We’re very proud of those numbers.”

ECU Senior Associate Provost Austin Bunch said he has seen the work LLP’s core membership come into fruition and help serve a need in the community.

“It is gratifying for all of (the participants) to be involved in lifelong learning, because lifelong learning encourages, challenges, entertains and generally enriches our lives,” Bunch said.

Contact Jane Dail at jdail@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.

To learn more about ECU’s Lifelong Learning Program, contact llp@ecu.edu or 252-328-9198.

via The Daily Reflector.


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