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.


Interested in Brain Health? Join us September 30

On Saturday, September 30, 2017, the Alliance for Arlington Senior Programs presents “Brain Health: A Revolution in Aging” at the Walter Reed Community Center. The program features two long-time Encore Learning instructors, Nort Beckerman, keynote speaker and author of A User’s Guide to a Healthy Brain, and Dwight Rodgers, who is teaching “Mindfulness as a Wellness Practice” for us this fall. Come and meet board member Steve Shapiro at the Encore Learning table and learn more about us! Call 703-228-0955 or email to register – more details below.





Community Advisory Council Profile: Theo Stamos

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 Theo Stamos, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. She has served on Encore Learning’s Community Advisory Council since 2012 and also as a repeat guest lecturer for Encore Learning’s Crime and Punishment course. We caught up with her recently.

After receiving your BA from Northern Illinois University (double major, political science and journalism), your first post-college job was in journalism, working for a wire service in Chicago. Soon after, you moved to the DC area to work in the U.S. Senate as press aide to Senator Alan J. Dixon in January 31, 1981. Then it was back to the fourth estate. Tell us what came next.

After one year on the Hill, I returned to journalism as writer and editor at the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) covering public employee unions. Next I joined McGraw-Hill Publishing where I covered the international coal trade for a weekly trade publication. After two years at McGraw-Hill, I joined the Washington Times as a staff reporter, first covering business then covering the US Supreme Court as a law reporter. I attended night school at American University’s Washington College of Law while working full time.  

Wow, that is quite a feat, getting your JD while working full time as a reporter for a major city newspaper. What came next?

In 1987, I called an old friend who was then a prosecutor in Arlington, learned about a recent job opening, met with then Commonwealth’s Attorney Helen Fahey and started in the office June 1, 1987.

According to the official court site, the Commonwealth’s Attorney is a constitutional officer elected to a four-year term. You were elected in 2011 upon Dick Trodden’s retirement and joined our council soon after. (Dick Trodden served on our Community Advisory Council from its inception in 2006 through his retirement.) Then you were re-elected in 2015 for a another four-year term. Your office is responsible for prosecuting crimes committed in Arlington County, the City of Falls Church and all felonies and misdemeanors committed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. We thank you for your many years of service to our community and to Encore Learning.

When did you hear about Encore Learning?

My first encounter was through my friend Marjorie Varner. Our children attended Arlington Traditional School together. I then started making regular appearances at the request of Gail Arnall to talk about the criminal justice system in Arlington. I hope my 30-years of experience on the front lines of the criminal justice system provide a small window into the way the justice system in Arlington and Falls Church really operates. My experience and background on issues such as criminal justice reform, mandatory minimum sentences, crime and punishment are important topics to so many members of this community. I am tremendously impressed with Encore Learning’s presence in the community. To be able to offer our residents a way to learn and study such a wide and vast array of topics and issues is impressive. The quality of the dialogue, questions, and conversations taking place in those classrooms is remarkable. It’s a real community asset.

So, what do you do when you aren’t in court?

If you can believe it, I love detective novels and other crime fiction. I also love reading biographies. I love to wander through thrift shops and antique stores. In my other life I would be operating a home furnishings store like Random Harvest or Urban Farmhouse – after so many years of dealing with such heartbreaking and difficult cases involving crime victims making someone’s home a pleasant and comfortable sanctuary really appeals to me.

Instructor Profile: Allan Hoffman

Allan R. Hoffman calls himself a lapsed physicist, a scientist who left the university classroom and laboratory to create public policies to meet the energy needs for the country’s people and infrastructure.

Now he weaves those teaching talents and policy expertise together to lead his first Encore Learning course, “Path to a Renewable Energy Future: History, Barriers, Potential.” He sees a renewable energy future, but calls the path winding.

“We’re moving in that direction now,” he said, even though the U.S. no longer recognizes the Paris Accord. “(The pace) can slow down, but you can’t stop Jerry Brown (governor of California), New York City, other cities and the other countries in the Paris Accord. The transition is inevitable.”

Off-shore wind power is developing rapidly. “There’s good off-shore wind, good technology, and the country is blessed with four different coasts,” he said. The United Kingdom today creates the most off-shore wind energy, and China, with a long shore line, is next. Land-based wind energy is cheaper, but the parts needed for turbines bigger than about 3 megawatts in size are too big to transport on land. Offshore, he points out, “Winds are faster, they are more steady, and there’s no limit to size of equipment. If you double the wind speed, you get eight times the amount of energy.” The off-shore oil industry is already helping to build floating ocean platforms for wind energy production.

Hoffman’s own career path was winding. While teaching and running a laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1969, he agreed to monitor a meeting of residents opposed to a nuclear plant in Vermont for a friend who couldn’t attend. (That plant was built but is now scheduled to close.) Hoffman knew about nuclear fission but not how it was used, and to expand his thinking he began teaching a science course for non-science majors and exploring how the country could meet its energy needs.

“I came to Washington one week after Nixon resigned,” said Hoffman. His role: to help advise a technically deficient Congress on science issues in a time when the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had embargoed oil, and gas prices were soaring.

In the Middle East

“My first assignment was to figure out how to set up a rationing system for gasoline. I talked to those who had been through rationing in World War II , and it soon became clear that we couldn’t do it now for political reasons. The second assignment was to figure out how to reduce oil imports. We realized that just three factors were involved in gas consumption: the number of cars we have, how much we drive and the fuel economy of the fleet. It quickly became clear that we couldn’t limit the number of miles traveled, as the House voted down any increase in the federal tax on gasoline.

“Walking back to the office after the House votes, I realized that we couldn’t take cars off the roads or limit driving, and that there was only one thing that could change.” Thus was born the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Hoffman wrote the legislation – his first — which required the reluctant automakers to increase the gas mileage of new car fleets. Congress enacted it in 1975. Since then, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates a savings of more than 60 billion gallons of gas.

Hoffman was involved with renewable energy when it was first considered under the Carter administration. It fizzled in the Reagan administration, when budgets were cut. Interest rose and fell at different points in the Clinton and Bush administrations; too often political decisions failed to support its development.

Nonetheless, Hoffman was there to help direct focus on energy that was getting increasingly inexpensive, accessible, environmentally preferable, and renewable. His career included senior positions at the National Academy of Sciences and International Energy Agency. At the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) he headed the department’s renewable energy electricity programs (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower, ocean, energy storage, hydrogen, superconductivity).

Now, renewable energy sources – biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar (including small-scale photovoltaic) and wind – accounted for 19.35 percent of U.S. electrical generation in the first quarter of 2017 and exceeded expectations and records, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

With his beloved dog, Illy

The lapsed physicist no longer maintains a 9-5 schedule, having retired from DOE in 2012, but his involvement in the issues of renewable energy continues. He writes a blog on energy issues, wrote a book, “The U.S. Government and Renewable Energy: A Winding Road,” and contributed to several others. He is involved in the planning of several large solar energy projects in Zambia. Still interested in science education, he serves as an advisory council member of the Children’s Science Center in Northern Virginia and includes a series of science books for young students on his bucket list. Come October, he’ll add the title “Instructor, Encore Learning,” to his bio.

Hoffman has always been an avid amateur photographer – he claims his 13 1/2-year-old canine may be the most photographed dog in the world – and for many years has been an enthusiastic cook and baker. You can check his blog ( not only for his thoughts on renewable energy but for his cheesecake recipe, too.

— Written by member Jody Goulden. Photos courtesy Allan Hoffman.


Bridge Club: Not just for Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

If you like to play social bridge, the Encore Learning Bridge Club is for you. Right now, we have 25 members and we welcome new members. The Bridge Club members enjoy getting together and playing fun bridge – not too serious, but we’re not beginners either.

From left to right, Sue Austin, Lee Austin, Mark Linton, and Cynthia Baskin.

Each month a club member volunteers to host two to four tables of bridge at their home. The host also provides a simple lunch, e.g. sandwiches, chips, pickles, dessert, or pizzas and salad, or a casserole from Costco and sodas/coffee/tea. Players reimburse the host/hostess $5.00 to help defray the food costs.  We have lunch at noon and play bridge until around 4:00 pm.

If you are interested in joining the Bridge Club, please provide your contact information to staff at or 703-223-2144 and we will be in touch.

— Sharon Bisdee, Club Coordinator

Listen in to the discussion about Encore Learning on Aging Matters

Would you like to learn more about Encore Learning? Listen to this great interview of our Executive Director, Marjorie Varner, by Cheryl Beversdorf of Aging Matters on WERA fm.

Instructor Profile: Jim Egenrieder

Encore Learning Instructor Jim Egenrieder

Would you like to learn how to build a small robot? Program LED circuits and small electronic motors? These skills will be part of a new Encore Learning course, Internet of Things: Explore the Basics to Understand the Future of Smart Cities, taught by Jim Egenrieder.

This is not Jim’s first Encore Learning course. He’s already taught a Watershed course and a Biodiversity course. Jim got involved with Encore Learning after meeting the staff when he was working for the Arlington Continuing Education program, near the Encore Learning office in the Syphax Building. While the staff got him interested in teaching, it was the Encore Learning student body that convinced him.

“I’m always attracted to new audiences who help me think differently and develop new teaching and learning strategies,” Continue reading

Curious and Not Old: Podcast Now Available

If you missed our Executive Director, Marjorie Varner, interviewed on WERA’s Choose to Be Curious broadcast on August 9th, you can listen to the podcast anytime!



Film Fan? Join our Cinema Club!

Once a month, Encore Learning film fans get together for an afternoon movie outing to one of the Arlington theaters. The group goes to a nearby restaurant afterward to talk about the movie and continue to socialize. Some of the movies we’ve seen this year are Hidden Figures, The Zookeeper’s Wife, United Kingdom and Wonder Woman, all enjoyable and with the added opportunity to meet new friends. New members are welcome, just send a request to

— Submitted by Leanne Peters, Club Co-coordinator. Photo courtesy Leanne Peters.

Curious and Not Old: Tune in Aug 9 to Hear More

On Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 10am, tune in to listen to our Executive Director, Marjorie Varner, discuss curiosity and lifelong learning on Choose to be Curious, on 96.7FM or streaming on

More details can be found on our Facebook page:

Fall 2017 Catalog – Available Now!

We know you all have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Fall 2017 Course Catalog in your mailboxes. That should happen by mid-August. In the meantime, you can check out our online course listings or download the pdf version of the catalog. Many thanks to the volunteers on our wonderful Publications Committee for their hard work and commitment to get this out to you as soon as possible.