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Back to the classroom

Residents are both students and teachers

Created date

September 24th, 2014
group of people standing

Creek’s spacious clubhouse living room becomes a classroom the first and third Saturdays of each month as about 25 residents gather to learn from a series of college-level DVDs called The Great Courses. The lecture series features top professors from different universities who possess in-depth knowledge of many available topics. 

Resident Bettye Coughenour coordinates The Great Courses at Tallgrass Creek and a different team of residents leads each topic. Typically, the group covers two DVD lectures with discussions afterward during the Saturday sessions, which are between 10 a.m. and noon.  Topics offered can take several weeks or months of class time.  

“These courses are packed with knowledge and really make you think,” says Bettye, a retired teacher and school administrator. “They are so interesting, you want to attend each week.” 

World War I focus

From January to September, the residents participating in The Great Courses studied World War I, the devastating global war that lasted from 1914 to 1918. The residents’ study coincided with the centennial of the Great War. The World War I series of lectures, the longest so far, was led by residents Dee Berry, Larry Sullivan, and Vance Hall, whose fathers were all in the military during World War I. 

“It’s a wonderful way to utilize the talents, curiosity, and knowledge of people who live here,” says Dee, who has an MBA and was a former lecturer at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

The extensive World War I study was comprised of 36 lectures and 18 sessions and finished with a fun sing-along of songs popular during the war. The study also included a trip to the World War I Museum, watching the epic war movie All Quiet on the Western Front, and a lecture by a physician from the University of Kansas Medical School about the duties of doctors and nurses during the war. 

“It was a great learning experience,” says Vance, who holds a Ph.D. in education and psychology and is a retired professor at the University of Kansas. “We saw how World War I affected everything that happened in that century, including how it ties into what’s happening in the Middle East right now.” 

During the study, the hallway display case outside Tallgrass Creek’s living room area featured an array of World War I memorabilia such as soldiers’ uniforms, a gas mask, mess kit, canteen, and two model airplanes constructed by Tallgrass Creek security guard Buck Heath, identical to those used during the war.  

The display case was arranged by Dee and fellow resident Ann Brazil and included photographs of residents’ relatives who fought during the war. Ann, a registered nurse who served during the Vietnam War, also attended the World War I sessions. 

Residents learn about The Great Courses sessions on the community’s bulletin board via flyers designed by resident Lila Martin. She uses information from the Internet and her own computer skills to design the colorful flyers. 

The gift of knowledge

Many of The Great Courses DVDs were given to Tallgrass Creek by resident Gwyn Hall. They belonged to her late husband John C. Hall, a Ph.D. in psychology who had a passion for studying and learning. In honor and appreciation of her gift, the residents participating in The Great Courses refer to their sessions as “Study Hall.”  

Prior to the World War I lectures, the group studied the Middle East with sessions led by Bettye, Ann, and Don Blim. They are now deep into a study of the brain, led by Karen Norman, Norma Tucker, Don, and Alan Forker. The Great Courses series consists of topics such as history, business, economics, theology, and the fine arts. Participating residents vote on which topics they wish to study and rarely miss the lectures. 

“Those who attend are also very good teachers,” says Larry, a Ph.D. in physiology and retired professor at the University of Kansas. “No matter what the subject matter, the level of knowledge among the residents has made The Great Courses even more interesting.”