Save the Dates – Fall 2017

The Fall Course Preview will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 9 a.m. at NRECA.


Registration will open at 10 a.m. sharp on Monday, September 11, 2017.


Our Fall semester will begin Monday, October 2, 2017.


Join us Feb 3 for our Spring 2018 Course Preview

Encore Learning’s instructors give brief presentations about their academic courses for the upcoming semester. Members often tell us that the instructors’ presentations at the Course Preview influence their registrations.

The preview begins at 9 A.M. Doors open at 8:30 A.M., for thirty minutes to socialize with friends and neighbors. It’s a great time to get the latest news on our clubs, special events and volunteer possibilities, along with a quick bite and hot drink.

New location! Wakefield High School. Turn left on S. Dinwiddie to enter the parking lot. Enter the building through doorway One.

This event is for both current and prospective members. Membership is open to those age 50+ in the metro area. Bring friends, relatives and neighbors! We’re looking forward to seeing you.

Important Dates: Spring Semester 2018

We’re busy gearing up for our Spring 2018 semester – make sure you have these dates on your calendar:

Saturday, February 3: Course Preview

NEW LOCATION: Wakefield High School

EARLIER TIME: Doors open at 8:30 A.M.

Encore Learning’s instructors give brief presentations about their academic courses for the upcoming semester. Members often tell us that the instructors’ presentations at the Course Preview influence their registrations.

The preview begins at 9 A.M. Doors open at 8:30 A.M., for thirty minutes to socialize with friends and neighbors. It’s a great time to get the latest news on our clubs, special events and volunteer possibilities, along with a quick bite and hot drink.

This event is for both current and prospective members. Membership is open to those age 50+ in the metro area. Bring friends, relatives and neighbors! We’re looking forward to seeing you.

Monday, February 5: 10 A.M. Sharp – Registration opens

Monday, March 5 – May 24: Courses run as scheduled



Meet the Speaker Series: Valuable Overview for Geneaology Beginners

On December 4, 2017, Lee Mathis, a retired Air Force Officer and volunteer docent and staff aide at the National Archives, gave a Meet the Speaker presentation at the Central Library: “Beginning Your Search for Ancestors”.  Lee has been volunteering at the Archives for over 20 years, so he’s gained some valuable insights into how to go about beginning your research.

Photo courtesy Lee Mathis.

Lee’s presentation focused on advice for those who have wanted to look for their family’s origins but simply haven’t yet. He gave tips on engaging family members in the search for ancestors, as well as what kind of resources are available online and at various archives in the D.C. area.

Lee has kindly offered to share the slides from his presentation: 20171204 Lee Mathis Encore Learning Presentation

If you would like a quick overview, here is the outline only: 20171204 Lee Mathis Encore Learning Presentation Outline

The Meet the Speaker series is jointly sponsored by Encore Learning and the Arlington Public Library.  This lecture series is always free and open to the public. Please join us for our next event at Central Library on January 8, 2018:

Lenin, Hitler, and Me by Boris Kochanowsky: My Father’s Amazing Escapes from Communists and Nazis


Instructor Profile: Ralph Berets

Dr. Ralph Berets’ class on “Cinematic Exploration of Aging” was a natural extension of his career in education. While studying for a doctorate in comparative literature, he took several film classes. Then his first position at the University of Missouri included teaching a relatively new film class. Because the University has a strong interdisciplinary program, Ralph eventually taught a number of classes as part of that program. Each of these classes considered a specific topic and analyzed how that topic was depicted in films. Just a few examples of the classes were “Psychology and Film”, “Film and the Law”, and “Ethics and Business as Seen through the Arts.”


Another venture into the world of film came after Ralph became active with the Kansas City film community. This eventually led to his being asked to review new films for a local radio station affiliated with NPR. The reviews were especially challenging because he was expected to have them ready the day after seeing the film.Ralph has pursued continuous learning since his retirement 10 years ago.

While in California, he taught at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at San Francisco State University. After ten years in California, he and his wife moved to Virginia to be near a newborn grandchild. Although they have other grandchildren, this baby’s birth presented a unique opportunity to be near a grandchild during its earliest months. They came to this area intending to stay only a short time, but have now been here for three years.


In their early months here, Ralph and his wife attended Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at American University. About a year and a half ago, they heard about Encore Learning and joined. At an Encore Learning social event, Ralph mentioned his teaching experience and before long he was encouraged to present a class for us. Although he had thought he was through with teaching, he accepted the offer to teach this term’s class, which is a refinement of one he taught previously. In addition to being an instructor, Ralph has taken Encore Learning classes on cybersecurity, Asian philosophy, and James Joyce.

Ralph says a highlight of teaching for us has been the opportunity to use his favorite classroom technique. He likes to “start a conversation” and then listen to a strong interactive discussion among his students. This worked well with this fall’s class.

— Profile written by member Peggy Higgins. Photos courtesy Ralph Berets.

Smithsonian Gardens – Great Tours of Beautiful Spaces

On March 13, 2017 we kicked off our Smithsonian Garden Series with a talk at Central Library by Smithsonian Garden Director Barbara Faust. Her informative talk was well attended and created a lot of interest in the tours.

Barbara Faust. Photo courtesy Barbara Faust.

Our April tour was of the Haupt and Ripley gardens. The Enid A. Haupt Garden features a parterre flanked with the Asian-inspired Moongate Garden and the Moorish-style Fountain Garden. It’s adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle and above the National Museum of African Art. The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden is a plant lover’s paradise that hosts more than a thousand plants and bulbs along a winding path between the Arts and Industry Building (the first United States National Museum that opened in 1881) and the Hirshhorn Museum.

Purposefully wild garden. Photo courtesy Karin Price.

Our May tour was of the Pollinator Garden. The Pollinator Garden features different habitats and informational signage about pollinators. A significant objective in the Pollinator Garden is to emphasize natural plant/pollinator partnerships. All of the plants, grasses and trees in the garden were specifically selected for providing nourishment and shelter to pollinator insects. It is located on the east side of the National Museum of Natural History at 9th Street between Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“I appreciated the free and informative tour very much – thank you!” — Tom Underwood

Photo courtesy Tom Underwood.

Photo courtesy Tom Underwood.

Our June tour was of the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden. The garden was completely reconstructed last year and features roses, which, while maintaining beauty and fragrance, are also hardy (resistant to diseases). Companion plants enhance the design. The Rose Garden is located on the east side of the Smithsonian Castle.

Photo courtesy Steve Spangler.

Our August tour was of the National Air and Space Museum Garden. Landscape gardens include over seven acres of trees, shrubs, ground covers, and herbaceous perennial and annual plants. Set in multiple tiers of walled terraces, the plantings are intended to provide year-round seasonal interest to museum visitors and staff.

Happy Encore Learning garden tourists. Photo courtesy Erin Clark.

Our September tour was of the garden at the National Museum of American History. Installed in spring 2017, Common Ground: Our American Garden is an outdoor exhibit that tells the story of migration through the movement of people and plants. The garden encompasses the raised planting beds around the outside walls of the museum and features a colorful landscape of plants with important connections to American memory, healing, discovery, and ingenuity. Some may be culturally significant and come from an immigrant country of origin. Others are regionally developed heirloom varieties or native plants found here in America. Some provide flavor, fragrance, or medicinal qualities as beloved herbs. Many have been discovered by Americans here and abroad and contribute to the attainment of the American dream today.

Photos courtesy Karin Price.

Our October tour was of the garden at the National Museum of the American Indian. The grounds are considered an extension of the building and a vital part of the museum as a whole. The landscape is designed to recall the natural landscape environment that existed prior to European contact and encompass four habitats: upland hardwood forest, wetland, cropland, and meadow. More than 33,000 plants of approximately 150 species inhabit the space. These plants are native to the Piedmont region between the Atlantic coastal plain and the Appalachian Mountains. In addition to plants, the landscape brings together boulders from around the western hemisphere, clay sculptures, and water features to create a beautiful invitation to visitors to return to a Native place.

Our group with horticulturist Christine. Photo courtesy Bill Peters.

“I am new to Encore Learning and the Smithsonian Garden tour at the Smithsonian’s American Indian Museum was the first special event I’ve attended. What a great way to start my membership! I’ve always enjoyed viewing that particular garden – but, until the tour, I never knew how much the museum used the products of the garden – cotton for weaving, tobacco for special ceremonies and vegetables (peppers, beans, kale and more!) for the restaurant. This was a terrific tour and that increased my knowledge of that particular museum complex as a whole. Thank you!” – Wendy Swanson

Our thanks to member Bill Peters, who worked with the Smithsonian to arrange this series of tours.


Office closed through January 3, 2018

Email and voice mail messages will be answered upon our return. Happy Holidays!

Marching through the Civil War with Bob Stone

Instructor Bob Stone started teaching Civil War courses in the spring of 2005 and has taught a course each spring and fall since. That is 26 semesters for lucky Encore Learning history buffs! Through maps, photos, and other materials, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of the war, Bob clearly explains the major battles and the key personalities who waged them, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox. This fall, Bob focused on the pivotal battle at Gettysburg in early July 1863.

Bob explaining the disposition of Union and Confederate troops on the third and final day of battle, prior to what has become known as Pickett’s charge. Photo Courtesy Tom Adams.

Bob’s courses end with a real treat: a voluntary field trip to the area covered by the course. The Gettysburg course actually had two trips. There was a one-day visit to Brandy Station, Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville in October to visit sites of skirmishes that took place as Robert E. Lee moved his army north, followed by a two-day trip to Gettysburg at the end of the course. Every trip is planned by Bob to the last detail including lodging, transport, meals, and an obligatory ice cream stop. Costs are borne by the participants.

Fall 2017 Gettysburg class posing in front of the Virginia Memorial. Photo Courtesy Tom Adams

While you don’t have to attend the field trips to enjoy his courses, we’re so lucky that Bob is willing to arrange the trips and be our guide. He explains the features of the battle terrain in class, but there is no substitute for seeing the actual site of each battle. At Gettysburg this included visiting the terrain where Confederate assaults at each end of the Federal line nearly succeeded on the second day of battle, as well as the land in front of the center of the Union Line where Confederate troops failed to break through on the third and final day of battle in what became known as “Pickett’s Charge.” Interacting with fellow students in class and on these field trips adds much to the course, as many of us who took it had ancestors fighting on both sides of the war.

Fall 2017 Gettysburg class posing in front of the Peace Memorial. Photo Courtesy Tom Adams.

Next semester Bob will be teaching Grant vs. Lee: The 1864 Overland Campaign. We hope you’ll join us in class!

— Submitted by member Tom Adams

Travel Club Trip Report: Malta, Italy’s West Coast, and Rome

In September 2017, thirteen Encore Learning Travel Club members embarked on a Grand Circle Line cruise that included Malta, the Western Coast of Italy, and Rome.

Photo Courtesy Floriana Strano

The group flew to Valleta, Malta where we spent three days. We toured the historical section of Valleta and the old silent city of Mdina, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In Valleta we met the current Knight of Malta when we toured his villa. Other tours included the prehistoric Hagar Qin Megalithic Temple, which will become a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2018. One of the highlights of the visit was a talk given by a Maltese language professor explaining the origins of the Maltese language that include Arabic, Italian and English among other languages.

Gozo Island. Photo Courtesy Sharon Schoumacher.

Hagar Qin. Photo Courtesy Tom Wukitsch.

The third day we embarked on the Grand Circle small cruise ship Artemus in Valletta where we joined other travelers on the cruise and sailed to Siracusa, Sicily. There we toured the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Syracuse, another UNESCO site and the home of Archimedes. The following day the ship docked at Marina di Riposto, Sicily where we disembarked for a tour of the Mount Etna lava fields. The braver members climbed to the cold and windy rim of Mount Etna, while others huddled in the coffee shop! Mount Etna is also the home of the Cyclops. When we returned to the ship we had a very interesting lecture by a professional geologist working in the Mount Etna region. His prediction of possible eruptions in the near future made the group happy that we were sailing on that night.

Photo Courtesy Floriana Strano.

Duomo di Siracusa. Photo Courtesy Sharon Schoumacher.

The ship then sailed to the Aeolian Islands where the group visited a caper farm. Capers are a speciality of the region. The next stop was Salerno. We visited the extensive ruins of Paestum, another ancient Greek city, and then traveled to a buffalo dairy farm that specialized in buffalo mozzarella cheese. After a tour of the farm, we had a lunch that included several cheeses made from buffalo milk. We continued along the Amalfi Coast and waved to Capri as we passed.

Docking in Salerno some tour members visited Pompeii, while others traveled to Naples to visit the museum where the treasures of Pompeii are housed. This is a fabulous museum – not to be missed if you are in the area. We then sailed to Sorrento, where we enjoyed home hosted lunches with Italian families and explored the market full of the local lemon specialties including the liqueur Limoncello.

Pozzuoli. Photo Courtesy Sharon Schoumacher

After passing the Eolian islands, which included Stromboli, and visiting other small islands, Procida and Pozzuolli, we disembarked at Gaeta and visited Oasi di Ninfa Nature Park and Botanical Gardens that are on the site of the ruins of a medieval town. The gardens contain plants and birds from all over the world and are not generally on standard tours, so we were fortunate to visit.

Club members and tour guide. Photo Courtesy Sharon Schoumacher.

We then continued our travel to Rome and had a day in Rome sightseeing. We enjoyed a farewell dinner with a wonderful Tiramisu dessert with our other tour mates from the Artemus before flying home to Arlington.  This tour was excellent and highly recommended for those interested in the area.

Tivoli Fountain. Photo Courtesy Sharon Schoumacher.

— Submitted by member Connie Collins

Community Advisory Council Profile: Dr. Patrick K. Murphy

Our Community Advisory Council, established in 2006, serves as a sounding board and network of support for Encore Learning’s Board of Directors. The Council, comprised of community leaders and representatives from our affiliates, meets once or twice a year with the Board and staff to review acquisition of classroom and office space, membership levels and diversity, recruitment of instructors, and additional affiliations. The broad, deep and diverse experience they bring to the discussion is invaluable.

We continue our series on current Council members with this interview of Dr. Patrick K. Murphy, Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools. Dr. Murphy has served on Encore Learning’s Community Advisory Council since 2009 when he arrived in Arlington in his present position. He has spoken to our membership at several course previews but here’s a bit of his background he may not have covered in those short addresses.


You’ve been in education your entire life! Well, perhaps excluding your toddler years. Your family moved from New York City to Northern Virginia in 1964. Tell us more.

My father worked for the Federal Government as a U.S. customs agent and was assigned to Dulles, National, and Andrews Air Force Base for international flights

I’m sure he had some stories to tell at the dinner table. Assuming you followed the typical primary to secondary school trajectory, you then earned your BS at James Madison. What were your interests during that period?

As a teenager and young adult, I worked at summer camps and coached local community swim teams. I have always been involved in coaching and teaching. I enjoy seeing others be successful, and at some point, recognized that I would have a leadership role working with children and families.

There’s a bit of a trend here: Virginia public universities and education degrees. This time, you earned your MA and doctorate in Educational Administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more recently referred to as Virginia Tech. That led to more work in your  desired field.

I have served in several public educational roles as a teacher’s assistant, teacher, coach, principal, director, assistant superintendent, and now superintendent.

You were honored in that role with the Virginia Superintendent of the Year award in 2015. Congrats! With Arlington Public Schools as our earliest affiliate, we are fortunate indeed to have the current APS superintendent on our council, as well as a former APS superintendent serving as our board president. How does your position at APS enrich Encore Learning’s mission?

It sends a message to the entire community that learning is continuous, and, also that all of us have something to contribute to enrich others.  It also highlights the ideal that learning is going to be constant in our lives and there are a variety of ways that can occur. Consequently, Encore Learning has found a collective way of tapping into the energy and talent of the community to create this exceptional community asset, coupled with the momentum and growth the organization continues to demonstrate through leadership and democratic beliefs and practices

So, you really like us!

Encore Learning is an outstanding organization with its unique approach to create a community of learners. I especially like the philosophy of Encore Learning that demonstrates and reflects the ideals of continuous and life-long learning.

We couldn’t say it any better. Which of our subject areas capture your personal interests? Where would we find you on the weekend if you aren’t covering an event in your role as superintendent?

The importance of staying fit and active is important for all of us to live a healthy and productive life. The area of health and wellness would also be an area that I would enjoy learning more about as it relates to nutrition and longevity. When I’m relaxing, you will usually find me outside puttering around in the garage, gardening and working with my honey bees.

Guaranteed: There’s never a shortage of topics. Join our Current Issues Discussion Club!

The Current Issues Discussion Group meets the third Wednesday of every month to discuss a subject of interest selected at its last meeting. Topics range from cutting-edge world events to domestic policies currently in the news.

Photo Courtesy of Bob Gibson

All participants have an opportunity to express their opinions, present facts, or just to listen, during the lively informal lightly-led discussions. Some participants attend regularly; others occasionally or when the topic is of particular interest to them.

Our next meeting will address deliberate and inadvertent manipulation of public opinion through internet giants and social media such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

The group meets at the Langston-Brown Senior Center  2121 N. Culpeper Street, corner of Lee Highway just west of Glebe.

Encore Learning members on the Current Issues Discussion Group email list receive reminders of the next topic in advance of each meeting. If you are not on the list and wish to be, please notify the office and also inform them if you are likely to attend the November meeting.

— Submitted by Pete Taylor and Bob Gibson, Club Co-Coordinators

Encore Learning clubs are open to all current members. If you are not a member, join Encore Learning! If you are a member, send a request with your name and the club name to