Category Archives: Uncategorized

September 7, 2019: Fall Course Preview

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

Open to current and prospective members. Bring friends, relatives and neighbors!

Doors open at 8:45 a.m.
Program begins at 9:15 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m.

4301 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22203
Corner of N. Taylor and Wilson Blvd.

Get the latest news on our clubs, special events and volunteer possibilities along with a quick bite and hot drink.

Join Us! Call the Encore Learning office at 703-228-2144 for specific directions or any questions. Flyer with map to download and share with friends.

Registration begins at 10:00 a.m. sharp on Monday, September 9.

Anyone can attend the course preview but only members may register for courses. To become a member or to renew membership, we recommend our website, where you can pay securely with your credit card. If you wish to purchase or renew your membership at the course preview, only personal checks can be accepted.

Meet Our New Executive Director: Lora Pollari-Welbes

Effective July 8, 2019, Lora Pollari-Welbes is the Executive Director of Encore Learning. “I am very excited about this opportunity to contribute to lifelong learning in the DC area,” Lora said. “I can’t wait to meet all of our members, especially our dedicated volunteers.” Encore Learning President Art Gosling said, “Lora’s nonprofit experience and strong commitment to member satisfaction make her the ideal choice to lead Encore Learning.” 

Lora arrives with extensive nonprofit management experience. She has held leadership positions in nonprofit organizations, consulting firms, and the federal government. For the past ten years Lora has been with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, VISTA, RSVP, and Foster Grandparent programs. Prior to her federal government work, Lora was the program officer for the Arlington Community Foundation, where she managed the scholarship and grant programs and a project to increase civic participation of older adults in Arlington.  

Lora’s commitment to community engagement is demonstrated throughout her work history. Her early jobs in her home state of Minnesota included creating a student service program and managing volunteers at Minnesota Public Radio. After moving to Arlington, she engaged in association management and improving nonprofit effectiveness and efficiency. Lora has led numerous successful fundraising, volunteer management, membership, database, and organizational process improvement projects during her career. Lora served on the board of the Educational Theatre Company and was an active parent in Arlington Public Schools. She is eager to bring her expertise and passion for civic engagement to Encore Learning.

Lora has a BA in American Studies from the University of Minnesota and an MA in Organizational Management from George Washington University. An Arlingtonian for over 25 years, Lora and her husband Matt live in Lyon Village. Their daughter Kate is a student at Temple University. Lora enjoys cooking, gardening, biking and attending live music performances.

Summer office hours

Summer office hours are now in effect through Labor Day. The office will be open on Tuesdays from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. Please remember to call ahead for an appointment, 703-228-2144. Regular office hours will resume Tuesday, September 3, 2019.

2019 Annual Members’ Meeting

Please join us for this once-a-year event. It provides an opportunity for you to meet and elect Encore Learning’s leadership.   

Monday, May 20, 2019

10:00 A.M. to Noon 

Central Library

1015 N Quincy Street 

Arlington, VA  

Arlington Central Library is located at 1015 N Quincy Street between Washington Boulevard and Fairfax Drive. Parking is free at the library or take Metro to either Ballston or Virginia Square on the Silver and Orange lines.

Our by-laws require a quorum to elect the Board. Only current members may vote. You may vote in person at the meeting or via online ballot. A link to the online ballot will be sent to all current members on May 3, 2019.

 Annual Meeting Agenda

10:00 A.M.       Social period, light refreshments

10:30 A.M.       Business meeting

  • Call to order:  Art Gosling, President
  • Treasurer’s Report:  John Morton, Treasurer
  • Election of Encore Learning Board: Ed Rader, Nominating Committee Chair
  • Encore Learning Organization Update: Art Gosling
  • Marjorie Varner Recognition and Closing:  Art Gosling

12:00 P.M.       Meeting concludes

Hope to see you at the meeting!

Community Advisory Council Profile: Mary Margaret Whipple

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, advises the organization on topics which range from acquisition of classroom and office space, to membership levels and diversity, to 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 Mary Margaret Whipple, Regional Director for Community & Member Outreach for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Mary Margaret has served on Encore Learning’s Community Advisory Council since its inception.

Photo by Tom Whipple.

Mary Margaret, we share an alma mater. Tell me about your formal education and early post-graduate years.

I met my husband Tom at Rice University. After our marriage in Texas in June 1960, we first lived in Arlington in 1960-61 as students. I earned my B.A. at American University and my M.A. at George Washington University. Tom and I returned to Arlington in 1964 and have lived here ever since, though we did have a two-year stint in London in the late 60s.

Go Rice Owls! London in the late 60’s sounds exciting. What did you do next?

My very first “real” job was as an editor at what was then the U.S. Office of Education but for more than 30 years I was an appointed and elected official in Arlington. I served on the Arlington School Board from 1976- 1980. Then I was elected in 1982 to the Arlington County Board where I served until 1995. Finally I was elected to the Virginia Senate, serving from 1996 to 2012, ending with four years as the Chairman of the Rules Committee. One notable fact is that, as Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, I was the first woman in an official leadership position in the General Assembly – ever. Fortunately there have been more since then!

Absolutely! We are welcoming the wave of women in public office thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of you and your colleagues. You have been busy on several fronts – I frequently see your photo in the Sun Gazette attending local and state-wide functions.

Photo by Tom Whipple.

And I’d like to tell you about a project I have been working on for several years. The General Assembly has authorized the construction of a Monument to the Achievements of Virginia Women on the grounds of the Capitol. Our Commission has chosen a design: a granite plaza with benches, a sundial, and a glass wall with the names of more than 200 women who have been influential in Virginia history, including Evelyn Reid Syphax, Kathryn Stone and Elizabeth Campbell from Arlington. Standing or seated around the Plaza will be a dozen bronze statues of women, some whose stories are not well-known, from all four centuries of Virginia’s existence. The Plaza has been built, several statues are underway, and we will dedicate the Monument this year, on October 14, 2019. This project is mostly privately-funded so we are still raising money for the last four statues. For more information, the website is

Thank you for your work on this project. I’m sure there are members interested in supporting this cause. Can you find time to do anything besides work?

Truthfully, for all those years when I was an elected official, I mostly attended Arlington events evenings and weekends – and enjoyed doing it! For vacations, we unwind at a cottage on a lake, taking hikes, reading and enjoying water sports. And I love to knit for my grandchildren.

We are so grateful that you continue to devote time to Encore Learning’s Community Advisory Council. Your unique history of leadership positions in the County enables you to provide us with invaluable insights.

Bob Brink, Mary Margaret Whipple and John Milliken at our
May 2018 Community Advisory Council Event.

As a long-time elected official, I have had an opportunity to know the Arlington community very well and can bring that perspective to the Community Advisory Council.

I suppose you knew about the organization from the beginning?

I don’t remember exactly when I encountered it – I think it was just an idea when I first heard about it. I do know I remember its old name: Arlington Learning in Retirement Institute or ALRI. I love the mission of Encore Learning: to offer high-quality, low-cost, accessible classes and experiences to older adults. This is a well-educated community that always wants to learn more and Encore Learning is a big part of filling that need.

John Sprott and Mary Margaret Whipple at Encore Learning’s 10th Anniversary in 2013.

With Tom now teaching at Encore Learning, let me guess which of our academic categories you will choose when you start taking courses…

One of the things I like about Encore Learning is that you don’t have to take a course of studies or follow a prescribed curriculum, but have the opportunity to delve into many different areas of interest.

Spoken like a true politician.

— Marjorie Varner

April 15 to 19 – Office closed

Courses, clubs and events continue as scheduled. Our office is closed during the Arlington Public Schools’ spring break, April 15 to 19. Staff will return on Monday, April 22.

Community Advisory Council Profile: Jay Fisette

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, advises the organization on topics which range from acquisition of classroom and office space, to membership levels and diversity, to 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 Jay Fisette, Managing Partner, DMV Strategic Partners, LLC. Jay has served on Encore Learning’s Community Advisory Council since 2013 and has been frequently in the public eye since the early 90’s.

Jay, I love hearing arrival stories. Tell me yours.

Between college at Bucknell University and grad school at University of Pittsburgh, I spent a year in California and a year in Europe. Lots of self-discovery, exploring different cultures, and writing journals. I arrived in Arlington immediately after finishing my graduate degree in public and international affairs in 1983. I was aiming for Washington, DC (Adams Morgan to be specific), yet landed in Arlington.

Lucky us! We are glad for that little mishap. A quick review of your official resume includes many honors gathered along the way. Tell me about your career.

I have had three significant “careers” prior to starting DMV Strategic Advisors.  First, I worked in the federal government as an investigator/auditor with the Government Accountability Office and as a consultant on Sen. Kennedy’s Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Second, I worked in the non-profit sector as the Director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia. And the third and longest tenure was as an elected member of the Arlington County Board, where I served as Chair or Vice-Chair for 10 of my 20 years and was very active in regional and statewide work as well.

That is how you ended up splashed across the regional newspapers. You were very active on state and regional boards and commissions as well. How does your present position follow from this?

 My new firm is an effort to help businesses, non-profits and governments to connect across borders and sectors to further their goals as long as they are aligned with the regional plans and goals. I am especially interested in advancing the region’s efforts to address climate change and protect the environment.

Sounds familiar and very timely. Speaking of timely, haven’t you been busy with Encore Learning on this front?

After graduating from Al Gore’s Climate Reality training, I did a presentation on Climate Change for Encore Learning last fall. And on April 9, I will be doing a presentation of the latest Gore slides as well as an update of Arlington’s energy plans at the GMU/Arlington Campus auditorium.

We love it when people share their knowledge with the community. When did you first hear about Encore Learning?

I think it was John McCracken – one of Arlington’s finest – who first introduced me to his newest passion at that time, the Arlington Learning in Retirement Institute (rebranded as Encore Learning in 2013). I happily agreed to serve on the Community Advisory Council and have never left. Lifelong learning is healthy for an individual and for a community. Encore Learning seems to be a vintage Arlington creation. It has been created by engaged citizens, it is funded and run by engaged citizens, and our smart, talented and engaged citizens share their skills and knowledge by serving as instructors. I admire the organizational efficiency coupled with programming quality.

And we admire you in return for lending us your expertise in the conference room and lecture hall.

I have attempted to provide some strategic advice to Encore Learning leaders over the years – and can continue to do that. I have also been tapped to facilitate programs and give guest lectures.

Yes! You served as moderator last May for our panel discussing “The Changing Face of Arlington” with Katie Cristol, County Board Chair; Adrian Stanton, Vice President for marketing, VA Hospital center; and Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber. Let’s change gears: what do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working hard at your job? Where would we find you on the weekend or on vacation?

My husband Bob and I have been together for 36 years (though only legally married for 6!).  We have always loved to travel and continue to find new places in the world to explore. Having lived in Paris in the early 1980’s, it remains my favorite city. I am also a health nut, so you’ll find me at the gym or in the pool, and often bicycling to get around town. We love spending time with our friends and family, and I am especially invested in yard and garden work. As with my dad, I like having some dirt under my fingernails! At night, we often watch Netflix or a favorite TV show like Blue Bloods or Law and Order. And we do go to quite a few shows – catching almost everything at Signature Theatre.

And then there’s $64,000 question as we wrap up: which of our course categories will you choose when you start taking courses at Encore Learning?

There are interesting topics in ALL of these areas!  As I get older, my interest in history, culture and the arts seems to grow.  Though I admit that I still devour the Washington Post, so add in public policy and politics.

The same dilemma all our members face. My solution? Take them all.

— Marjorie Varner

All photos courtesy Jay Fisette.

Instructor Profile: Dr. James Giordano

Jim feels honored to have been teaching in Encore Learning’s academic program for the past decade. A full professor in the Departments of Neurology and Biochemistry, and Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at Georgetown University since 2005, he calls Encore Learning members “some of the best [students] I have; they bring career and life experiences and perspectives to the class conversations,” and through their questions and insights are “at the same time engaged and engaging, and interested and interesting.” It’s in this spirit that Jim embraces and enjoys his work at Encore Learning: “Of course, I’m here to teach; but I learn much from my students. For me, every class is a reciprocal exchange of experience and wisdom, with a fair bit of humor, and a sheer joy.” 

CHANTILLY, VA – JULY 22 James Giordano, a Georgetown professor. (Photo by Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Washington Post)

A former Fulbright Professor of Neuroscience and Neuroethics at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Jim currently is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Brain Science, Health Promotions, and Ethics at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, and was awarded the University Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement and Service in December 2018. The author of seven books in print (with two more forthcoming), fifteen governmental whitepapers, and more than 290 published articles, much of his work has focused upon the use and misuse of brain science in warfare, intelligence and global security operations. He is now Senior Fellow for Biowarfare and Biosecurity of the Donovan Group of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and through 2016 was Senior Science Advisory Fellow to the Joint Staff of the Pentagon. Jim has served as an appointed member of the Neuroethics, Legal and Social Issues Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and was Senior Research Fellow and Task Leader of the EU-Human Brain Project’s Sub-Project on Dual-Use Brain Science.  

Admitting that work is almost always on his mind in one way or another, he notes that piloting airplanes – a skill that he honed while flying for the US Navy and Marine Corps – is the one hobby that demands his concentration solely on the task at hand. But the logistics of work, international travel, and the time needed to maintain both his airplane (a restored 1948 L-17B warplane) and his piloting skills forced him to sell his plane. “The precision skills get rusty pretty fast, although the basics never really go away.” He laments: “But neither does the absolute joy of flying a plane; I miss it almost every day.” 

Photo courtesy Dr. James Giordano.

A lifelong athlete, the one thing he will not abandon is his commitment to exercise. A high school and collegiate wrestler, Jim earned a black belt in judo by the time he was eighteen, competed on the varsity team of St. Peter’s College, and instructed the college judo club as well as judo classes at the local YMCA in his native New York City. A former lifeguard, he was also a competitive swimmer and swimming instructor. “I’ve always felt – and received great humility, benefit and reward from the fact – that learning and teaching are mutual and complementary experiences.” He is fond of the adage that ‘minds are not vessels merely to be filled, but rather are muscles to be exercised.’  And, Jim knows a bit about exercise: a former nationally ranked power-lifter and bodybuilder, he still lifts weights 4-5 times a week, and is currently training for a competitive weight lifting tournament this summer. He notes: “After all, whether it’s knowledge, a language, flying, a martial art, or physical conditioning – if you don’t use it, chances are you’re going to lose it.”

Jim believes that “in many ways, Encore Learning is like music for the mind: it lets you learn new verses to melodies that are familiar, and provides opportunities for acquiring new tunes at whatever rhythm one desires.” And speaking of music, you might be surprised to learn that this instructor is also a blues and jazz pianist who “…used to earn a quick buck or two playing piano in jazz bars.”  When asked about that experience, he simply smiled and said: “Same tune, different beat: whether it’s playing with some great musicians, training on the judo mat, or being in the lecture hall, it’s all about what you learn and what you teach, and how you give back what you’ve been lucky enough to get.” Encore Learning members are lucky indeed.

March 1, 2019 – Office Closed

Arlington Public Schools are closed so our office is closed today.

Instructor Profile: David Rehr

He remembers back in 1986, “I told my mother I was going to be the Chief House lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. She asked me, ‘Have you thought about law school? At least I could tell the neighbors what you do.’”

Photo courtesy David Rehr.

Law school had been a possibility when David went to St. John’s University in Minnesota in 1977. His mother worked for an attorney who had graduated from the university in the 1930s. David earned a B.S. in Business Administration in 1981, but his volunteer work with Vin Weber’s successful congressional campaign sent him to Washington. There David worked with the House Small Business Committee where he was introduced to lobbying. His next job took him from being lobbied in the House to lobbying the House and the dismay of his mother.

Of course, David saw lobbying differently. He said, “The Federation worked for small business people. It was created to protect and advance their ability to succeed.”

It was also the start of a career in lobbying. “Each job taught me something different about the lobbying tool,” he said. “I learned the importance of numbers working with independent businesses. There were thousands of members in every congressional district.”

This semester, David is teaching a class on lobbying for Encore Learning. He prefers the term “advocacy,” knowing that the word “lobbying” sometimes prompts a negative reaction.

His next lobbying job in 1992 was with the National Beer Wholesalers Association who had only about 15 to 20 members in every congressional district. “They were a smaller group, but they were involved in politics and campaigns,” he said. “They knew the importance of personal connections.”

In 2005, he became President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, the same year Congress declared that analog television would be replaced by digital television in 2009. David wrote a book, From Analog to Digital Television about the experience.

He wrote, “This is a story about the largest marketing campaign in the history of television. It did not focus on a product or service. It did not focus on a company or industry. Instead it was a campaign to educate all Americans about the transition from analog television to digital television.”

That campaign had many parts. For example, two TV-shaped “DTV Trekker” vehicles travelled across the country visiting fairs, parades, museums and malls. A speaker’s bureau of local broadcasters took the digital message to organizations, schools and worship houses.

David’s wife, Ashley, emailed parents of children attending local public schools about the transition. This inspired a “DTV email chain” starting with an email to the association’s 270,000 email addresses asking recipients to forward that email to five to ten of their friends. When David received an email from a friend not in the broadcast business, he knew the chain was working.

It was lobbying that brought David and Ashley together. Ashley had been working for Rep. Cass Ballenger. David went to lobby the congressman for small business. Ballenger wasn’t there, but Ashley was. David remembered, “When I met Ashley, I knew I had to marry her.” So, he lobbied her. “I got friends to take her out to lunch and tell her how nice I was.”

That campaign worked and they did marry, but lobbying almost got David in trouble with Ashley. David was at a photo shoot with Fortune magazine. Ashley was going to a doctor’s appointment before the birth of their first child. The photo shoot ran three hours and when it ended, David realized he had 19 missed calls. He rushed to the hospital only to find that Ashley was waiting for him at home. Everything went well and they went on to have four children.

Meanwhile, David’s career took another turn – this time to teaching. He had stayed in school during his career, earning a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. In 2010, he became an Adjunct Professor in George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management teaching advocacy, leadership and enterprise management. In 2014, he became Program Director of their new Master’s program, Advocacy in the Global Environment.

In 2016, he moved to George Mason University where he was the Senior Associate Dean and Professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School. In the fall of 2018, he became a Professor of Public Policy at GMU’s Schar School where he teaches advocacy and lobbying. In January of this year, David launched the Center for Business Civic Engagement ( to foster transparency, accountability, stewardship, and civility. David believes performance metrics used in business should help drive government performance at all level of government.

Mason President Ángel Cabrera (R) and David Rehr (L)
at the Antonin Scalia Law School Dedication.
Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

At GMU, he was introduced to Encore Learning when he met Marjorie Varner, Encore Learning’s Executive Director, at a GMU Arlington Campus meeting. She encouraged him to teach an Encore Learning class.

This semester David is teaching both his youngest and oldest students: Mason undergraduates and Encore Learning members. His course “Lobbying Congress: Drain or Expand “The Swamp”? sold out quickly on the first day of our course registration.

Who does he anticipate will take his class? “I expect people who want to know how to make themselves heard as one person or as part of a coalition,” he said. “Also, someone might want to ask, ‘How can you defend what you do?’ We could have a dialog.” And he can thank his mother for preparing him for that.

written by member Laura Paul