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Live to learn, leave to learn

Oak Crest Speakers Series keeps ’em coming back for more

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October 14th, 2014
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The War of 1812 took place more than 200 years ago, but for some Oak Crest residents, it easily could have happened this past summer. Thanks to an educational speaker series, now in its second year, residents at the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community can learn and experience events like the War of 1812 from a different perspective.

“It was unlike any history lesson I ever learned in school. Our tour guide knew a lot of personal stories you don’t hear about in history books,” says Louise Kaufman.

Louise embarked on the walking tour, which traced the footsteps of the land battle of Baltimore. “I’ve been participating with the speaker series program since it started, and I’ve enjoyed every single subject. But this one, in particular, was really unique and stood out in my mind,” she says.

Far and wide

“Live to learn…leave to learn” is the motto of the Oak Crest Speakers Series, which holds bimonthly lectures and related daytrips open to residents and their families. 

“We go all over the place. We reach out far and wide to get the most interesting people and places,” says Ann Brownson, who leads the program. “From the start, there has been a good response from residents. Now the series is so popular, many of our trips sell out.”  

Ann works with a committee of seven of her Oak Crest neighbors to brainstorm lecture topics and then relies on Oak Crest’s special trips department to select day trips that correlate.

“In August, we had Amy Davis, an award-winning photojournalist with the Baltimore Sun,” says Ann. “She talked about her book, Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters, and showed us photos of theaters around Baltimore during the 1920s and 1930s.”

During her presentation, Davis showed more than 100 photos of older movie theaters located in Baltimore City. The photographs provided a historical before-and-after look at the theaters in their original and current forms. 

Following the slideshow, Davis took questions and received first-person accounts from the audience of 50 residents, many of whom went on dates with their high school sweethearts in the movie theaters they had just seen. A week after the presentation, participants had the opportunity to attend a backstage tour of the Hippodrome Theater. 

“It was fascinating to see some of the old theaters,” says Ann. “We had one lady who attended the lecture who spoke up and said she learned to tap dance on the roof of one of the old Baltimore theaters. I thought, ‘Wow! Now that’s interesting!’” 

Last month, the speaker series hosted Dr. Antonio Mannino, an oceanographer from NASA who lectured on how remote sensing data from satellites is being used to study and diagnose the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The lecture followed with a cruise on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

“We try to pick interesting topics, and we are always open to ideas and suggestions,” says Ann. “Once, we received a request from a resident about what happens to their recycling after it’s picked up. So we had someone come in and talk about the process of recycling, and later we visited a recycling center.” 

‘Interested and involved’

The lectures cost $3 per person. Ann strives to keep the cost of the daytrips under $50 per person, which includes transportation, tickets, a docent if necessary, and, typically, a sit-down lunch in a nice restaurant.   

A tentative schedule for 2015 includes former Walters Art Museum director and author of From the Holy Land to Graceland: Sacred People, Places and Things in Our Lives Gary Vikan; the National Cryptologic Museum; animal trainer and founder of Humane Domain Debbie Winkler; a look at the contributions of Benjamin Banneker by professor and historian Lester Brooks, Ph.D.; and Baltimore’s favorite places.

“I don’t know how Ann continues to get all these wonderful people to come and give lectures, but they are wonderful and they are interesting and they get us interested and involved,” says Louise. 

Ann herself is equally as enamored with the success of the program. 

“I’m thrilled that the series has taken off the way it has, and I’m excited about our upcoming lectures and trips,” says Ann. “But most of all, I am grateful to the hardworking people who help make it a success.”

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