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Hungry for knowledge

Lifelong learners at Tallgrass Creek enjoy unique educational opportunities

Created date

September 15th, 2016
Lifelong Learning Committee Chairman Don Blim (left) welcomes well-known local sports reporter Sam Mellinger as he arrives at Tallgrass Creek to speak with residents about his experiences reporting for The Kansas City Star.

Lifelong Learning Committee Chairman Don Blim (left) welcomes well-known local sports reporter Sam Mellinger as he arrives at Tallgrass Creek to speak with residents about his experiences reporting for The Kansas City Star.

If you are a sports fan in the Kansas City metro, you have probably read the words of Sam Mellinger, the award-winning sports reporter for The Kansas City Star. Mellinger has several columns a week in The Star and is known for his well-worded insight into both Kansas City’s professional sports teams as well as the state’s collegiate sports organizations.  

Earlier this year, Mellinger, a 2000 graduate from the University of Kansas (KU), regaled a roomful of Tallgrass Creek neighbors with his personal experiences and opinions as a sports reporter.

“I’m one of those lucky people who knew what he wanted to be since childhood,” says Mellinger. “I’ve never wavered, even when my parents were worried early on if sports reporting was even a real job.”

Mellinger spent considerable time answering questions from the floor, many about the state of this year’s Kansas City Royals and 2015 World Series champions. He also fielded questions about other sports teams, players’ personalities and salaries, deadlines, and reporting from the dugout and locker room.

Resident Bob Montgomery arrived early so he could get a front row seat.

“Sam Mellinger is my favorite sports reporter, hands down,” says Bob. “I never miss his column. He gives a different, more personal perspective, both in person and in his columns. I enjoyed his talk tremendously.”  

Lots of learning

Mellinger is just one of the presenters hosted by Tallgrass Creek’s Lifelong Learning Committee. The committee, chaired by resident and retired physician Don Blim, meets monthly to review the community’s many learning opportunities, which include the selection of outside speakers. 

Past speakers include Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley and Carl Gerlach, mayor of Overland Park, Kans., second largest city in Kansas and home to Tallgrass Creek. 

Later this year, residents will hear from Steve Rose, local newsman and political pundit, as well as from professional health workers at KU who will discuss palliative care. 

“We like to host a variety of outside speakers from the Kansas City community,” says Don. 

“Like Sam Mellinger, the speakers have all been immensely knowledgeable, and we always learn things we didn’t know.” 

In addition to Don, Lifelong Learning Committee members include residents Judy Turner, Lila Martin, Margaret Lyddon, Georgia Erickson, Rita Thomson, Dorcas Doering, Jim Barloon, Myron Tilson, Jim Graham, Bill Lynn, and Bob Montgomery. 

The group also coordinates presentations conducted by the Osher Institute, part of the continuing education program at KU. The Osher Institute aims to create innovative learning environments with special focus for participants age 50 and older. Professional lecturers associated with KU lead the presentations.

The two-hour courses are held at Tallgrass Creek during fall, winter, and summer in the community’s clubhouse living room on Thursday afternoons.

Earlier this year, residents attending a three-week course called “Kansas City Jazz” learned why and how Kansas City maintains its status as one of four major jazz cities in America. 

Another several-week study called “Art and War” covered the fate of great art during wartime and what efforts are still made to restore pieces to their rightful owners. 

Learning from peers

The Lifelong Learning Committee sponsors more learning opportunities, including alternate Saturday mornings when residents gather to watch a series of college-level DVDs called The Great Courses. The lecture series features various topics discussed by top university professors. 

The two-hour Saturday sessions take place in the community’s living room and can last several weeks depending on the topic. Typically, a different team of residents introduces each topic and leads a group discussion after watching the DVD lectures.

Currently, residents are studying medical myths, a 24-lecture series that refutes medical misinformation and replaces it with evidence-based guidelines for everyday health and well-being. 

During monthly “Share Your Story” sessions, individual residents share overviews of their lives and accomplishments. The lively gatherings are always packed as residents learn more about their neighbors, including published authors, painters, physicians, retired lawmakers, and politicians. 

“We are like an extended family here with an interesting variety of people and viewpoints,” says Don Blim. “We enjoy learning from each other as well as from outside professionals.”