Judge Steve Bernard Escapes Ivory Tower


At age twelve, Judge Steve Bernard already knew he wanted to be a lawyer: he loved debate and discussion. Then, as a teenager in the 1960s, he became “a big fan of Martin Luther King.” “I felt strongly,” he recalls, “that the law was the place where one could serve one’s community.”

Steve BernardFortunately for Academy participants, Judge Bernard’s commitment to community service extends to volunteering as a course leader. He tackles complex, nuanced legal subjects with a keen wit, a self-deprecating sense of humor and a down-to-earth style. (For starters, he asks all his classes to dispense with the title “Judge” and call him “Steve.”)

Not surprisingly, civil rights issues are front and center in many of Steve’s Academy classes—either explicitly (as in his popular course on “The Stain,” aka slavery) or as one among many pervasive sub-texts (as in this fall’s The Constitution and the Bill of Rights in American Life). In his upcoming Spring 2014 course on Great Debates that have Shaped the Law, civil rights will once again loom large. This new course, he notes, “will drill down to both sides of pivotal court decisions that have had a significant effect on American society, placing those decisions in the context of history and how the law develops.” It will highlight—among others–the historic Marbury v. Madison and Miranda v. Arizona cases, as well as Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson, which earlier affirmed the “separate but equal” doctrine underlying Jim Crow laws.

The Academy is not the only beneficiary of Steve’s community work, however. While serving as a Colorado Court of Appeals judge over the past seven years and as a deputy and chief deputy district attorney previously, Steve has taught numerous credit and noncredit classes on legal topics in a variety of community programs and educational institutions. In 2002 he was honored as Lecturer of the Year by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. His volunteering has also extended to serving on the Adams County’s Open Space Advisory Board and fulfilling such ad hoc roles as tour leader for a local Boy Scout troop eager to explore the new Colorado State Court House downtown, where Steve adjudicates cases on appeal.

Some observers contend that judges should not get involved in community commitments, due to the possibility of their being unduly influenced on legal issues or cases. But Steve believes strongly that it is “important for judges to be really present and active members of their communities and not sit in an Ivory Tower,” as long as they “set boundaries” about discussing issues that are or might come before their courts.

Steve not only values but “really likes” The Academy, he says emphatically, and hopes he can continue teaching with us. Our immediate response: can we get you to sign this long-term contract we’ve drawn up, Steve? Of course, the pay will be the same: the reward of knowing how much Academy participants revel in learning about the law and its role in American history, from an erudite judge who knows how to tell a joke (almost always on himself).

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RosalieGoldmanAcademy member Rosalie Goldman admits that she has “failed retirement three times,” each time going back to work, most recently as a substitute teacher three days a week. “But I make Academy classes a priority,” she says. “I never teach on Tuesdays so I can take classes then.”

Rosalie’s Writing Your Life Stories course leader, Kathy Boyer, praises her as “my most enthusiastic student.” And Rosalie more than returns the compliment. “Kathy’s method is what is so significant and so do-able: you don’t have to [write everything] from beginning to end; you just keep tossing [your stories] into a three-ring binder.” From there, and with added encouragement from the writing group that grew out of Kathy’s class, Rosalie organized her memoir on her computer, ultimately creating an impressive, 190-page, spiral-bound document containing about fifty stories.

“I was determined to finish it within three years,” she recalls, and targeted her seventy-third birthday this past September. Just days ahead of her self-imposed deadline, she raced through pouring rain to get it copied and bound at Copy Max.

2-BookCoverRosalieGoldmanHer memoir encompasses an opening section on her own life and a second part focused primarily on her parents and her grandparents, though she also touches on her children, grandchildren, cousins, ex-husband and ex-in-laws. Noting that “it’s not intended to be read in its entirety,” she calls it a “collection of stories—narratives, historical records and, most important, reflections” on how her life was shaped by her values. For example, she incorporated a chapter on her volunteer experiences, hoping that it will inspire her children and grandchildren to continue her family’s strong tradition of volunteerism.

Throughout her work on her memoir and as a substitute teacher, Rosalie has continued taking a challenging mix of Academy classes. “I gravitate toward the social sciences–and I like the quality of The Academy’s instructors,” she says emphatically. She considers Dan Lynch, her original Constitution course leader, “a fountain of wisdom.” She also loved Judge Steve Bernard’s class on Slavery and the Constitution, and Dr. Fred Abrams’ “incredible” Doctors on the Edge course on medical ethics.

We can’t wait for Rosalie to retire a fourth (and final?) time, so she can immerse herself in even more Academy courses and share her enthusiasm for learning with even more of us.

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HowardBrandWhen asked how he discovered the key to enjoying retirement so much, Academy member Howard Brand replied with his trademark wit and humor. “Some guys never retire. Some guys retire with a whole bucket list of things to do. I’ve always done just exactly what I wanted to do.”

Some of the things he has enthusiastically chosen to do might surprise you. To name just two—both rare for a man of his generation—Howard served on the Colorado Commission for Women in the 1980s and spent a decade as “Mr. Mom,” caring for his children and home, while his wife earned a degree and then went to work.

Howard also forged a career as a self-described computer geek by navigating the epic changes in technology during his adult years. After a stint in the Air Force learning electronics, he went to work for the Burroughs Corporation, mastering the predecessor to the computer before graduating to the real thing. “I went from punch cards to personal computers: pc’s to PCs,” he says with a laugh.

In his Academy classes, Howard indulges both his geek side and the dilettante he claims to be at heart. He has a hard time picking any favorites among his courses, since he has found “all the classes to be wonderful.” On the one hand, he marvels at course leader John Anderson’s thorough research and intellectual depth. Having taken John’s classes on mathematical theorists and the physics of time, Howard considers John “a geek’s geek.” But he also was amazed at how much he learned about music in Robin McNeil’s and Lorraine Sherry’s classes, and about aging and other personal issues in George Ho’s End-of-Life Choices and Ruth Neubauer’s Psychological Growth: Our Losses & Gains.

In between his Academy classes, Howard still finds time to greet Academy participants (always with a warm welcome and often with a spontaneous joke) and help staff the Denver Art Museum gift shop. With a richly resonant voice worthy of commercial radio or television, Howard has also served as an expert reader for the nonprofit Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic; he has recorded books as demanding as advanced economics texts and the history of the Panama Canal.

One of his most rewarding volunteer jobs, he notes, has been as a teacher in free ESL classes and as a one-on-one tutor for non-native US residents. In mentoring a South Korean minister studying at a Denver seminary, he went well beyond his “job description,” persevering until he realized that their ideal ESL text was the Bible and later helping to edit his student’s seminary essays.

Clearly Howard’s fulfilling retirement could be a model for us all, but we know he’d just advise us to “always do exactly what you want to do.”

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Why has Patricia Cox’s Write to Save Your Life memoir-writing course filled virtually every time she has offered it over the last six years? She credits the course’s success not to her remarkable ability as a writing mentor but to “the rich stories my participants bring to the class.”

2-Cox-PatriciaIronically, Patricia notes, “the majority come as very reluctant writers.” By the end of the course, however, many participants are so eager to complete their memoirs and continue their fruitful interaction with their classmates that they form spin-off writers’ groups. Patricia has met for three years with one of these many “Academy graduate” groups. Occasionally she visits the other groups, as well.

Patricia honed her skills as a course leader through years as a teacher for Cherry Creek and the Denver Public Schools and as a published memoirist. Her first book, We Keep Our Potato Chips in the Refrigerator, focused on her late husband and their journey through Alzheimer’s. She went on to publish My’s Happy, recapturing her children’s, grandchildren’s and her own growing-up years. And we’re delighted to congratulate Patricia on the recent publication of her third memoir, I’m Sorry . . . What is the Question? –an entertaining and insightful reflection on events that shaped her life.

Patricia especially loves teaching Write to Save Your Life at the Academy, she says, because “people interested in the Academy are eager to continue learning and doing—and are just fun people to be with.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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2-TedBorrilloCongratulations to retired attorney Ted Borrillo on the publication of his new book, Denver’s Elitch Theatre: A Nostalgic Journey! It’s a fascinating portrayal of the dramatic history underlying his Academy courses on Elitch’s–and promises to be equally popular.

Denver’s Elitch Theatre is packed with little-known details of the back-stage melodramas that marked the historic theatre’s birth in 1890, its roller-coaster struggles to survive, its repeated rescues from bankruptcy, and its many coups—including luring Broadway legends to its boards. East Coast stage actors knew–as the acclaimed Frederic March once said–that “Anyone who was successful there had an excellent chance of getting better parts when he returned to New York.”

Of course, not every well-known performer behaved like a paragon when in Denver for Elitch’s summer season. One of the dozens (hundreds?) of revealing anecdotes features Mickey Rooney, who was notorious for finishing his matinees up to ten minutes early. Observers reported that Mickey would race through his lines, so he could get to the race track on time to place his bets. His signature offstage exit line: “I said every word! I said every word!”

Ted also regales his readers with entertaining and informative back-stories of pertinent local events (such as the competing Manhattan Beach “resort” built on Sloan’s Lake) and not-so-famous actors—some, like local maven Helen Bonfils, who were much more famous for their offstage roles.

For local-history lovers, theatre devotees and those just seeking an intriguing true story about a cultural icon, Ted’s book is available at http://www.amazon.com/Denvers-Historic-Elitch-Theatre-Nostalgic/dp/0974433144.

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Twelve years ago, the Colorado Academy for Lifelong Learning joined several nonprofit organizations offering Printnon-credit adult learning opportunities in Denver. However, the Academy is unique among such organizations in offering superb classes in an ongoing program without a university connection (or obligation) or grants, distinguishing itself from both Osher Foundation programs and Road Scholars’ intermittent Denver events.

The Academy’s independence fosters flexibility and nimbleness in creating a curriculum constantly revised and custom-tailored to its participants’ ever-changing needs and interests. Issues-oriented classes, for example, typically tackle local ballot initiatives, the impact of the national economy on Colorado, and Denver-specific educational issues, unfettered by the concerns of an overarching institution or grant-funding requirements.


Instead, the Academy’s independence frees it to partner with organizations of every stripe—from small businesses to major cultural institutions and multiple universities. During the same term, for instance, the University of Colorado at Boulder will sponsor one of its regular Academy series on cutting-edge scientific research and the Denver Art Museum will host yet another of its “DAM Great Art” courses, featuring current and permanent exhibits. The University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music regularly offers free concerts to Academy members and their guests, as well as supplying course leaders for a rich array of music courses, such as the debut of an Academy music-composition course in 2012, which will be repeated in spring 2014 by popular demand.

One of the Academy’s biggest attractions is its affordable tuition, made possible in large part by an all-volunteer faculty. Volunteer course leaders combine a passion for their subjects with strong professional credentials and/or substantial independent research. Academy faculty in 2013 range from physicians and judges, to a retired brain surgeon, an astrophysicist, a legal expert on First Amendment issues, an independent scholar of comparative religions, a financial planner honored in 2010 as one of the top fifty women nationally in wealth management, and numerous professors and teachers of literature, history and an array of scientific disciplines.

Follow your lifelong passions, and discover brand-new ones at the Academy. “This could be page one of the best chapter in your life,” advises Academy board member Bil Buhler.

Browse the website for information about the Academy’s past, current, and future terms.

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Online Courses: What’s Out There?


E-learning (online course) Opportunities for Academy Members
By Jackie Dobrovolny, Ph.D. UCD elearning faculty and member of the Academy’s Elearning Committee

~~Jackie Dobrovolny’s career has encompassed teaching and co-teaching numerous online courses at the University of Colorado-Denver.  Those courses include graduate degree courses, as well as open-admission adult continuing education courses. The content of all these courses is how to design online (elearning) instruction. In each of these online courses, students design and develop an online course which is either self-paced or instructor led. The students in these courses are from all over the U.S., as well as from outside the U.S., e.g., Germany, Israel, and Puerto Rico.

1-Online-EducationCurrently, Jackie is investigating the possibility of developing elearning focused on environmental and/or humane education topics. With respect to members of the Academy using elearning, there are basically three types that might be fun and informative: (1) Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), (2) self-paced courses, and (3) webinars.

MOOCs are instructor lead and often the instructor is a leader in the field. MOOCs are free, have a start and stop date, based on either a quarter or semester calendar, and students don’t have to finish the course, i.e., they can focus only on those parts of the course they find relevant and/or interesting. Students who satisfactorily complete a MOOC, can usually receive a certificate of completion.

Examples of MOOCS

Coursera.org – Supported by 33 different universities

UDACITY.com – Supported by Stanford University

edX.org – Started by MIT and Harvard. Partners currently include University of Texas system, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, and Wellesley College.

MIT Open Courseware Consortium – Includes 250 universities, providing over 13,000 courses

See below for additional information about MOOCs and the providers listed above.

Self-paced elearning
Online, self-paced courses are another type of elearning that members of the Academy night enjoy. They are often free and students can take as much time as they want to learn parts or all of the content. Typically, self-paced, elearning courses take between 5 minutes and 5 hours for students to complete albeit some students may take several months, spending only a few minutes in the course at each sitting.

Examples of self-paced instruction: “libraries” of courses (All but two of these libraries offer free courses.)
iTunes U
Khan Academy
Lynda.com (monthly and annual subscription options)
MetEd (through COMET in Boulder)
National Repository of Online Courses
Ted Talks
Virtual University ($10/course and up)
Terra Incognita

Examples of individual self-paced courses (All of these courses are free.)

African Voices
Ancient Astronomy
Becoming Human
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Freeskills (software coding)
Japanese Americans and the American Constitution
Mission US (history)
Polar Science
Theban Mapping Project (Egypt)

Another online learning opportunity for members of the Academy is the synchronous webinars offered by various professional
development organizations and software companies. These are typically 45 minutes to two hours. Everyone is online at the same time and there is a presenter/faculty presenting the content. Some webinars are free; for others there is a fee.

Use Webinar Base or PBS (Public Broadcasting System) to search for a webinar on a specific topic or field of interest.


MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses
Instructor-led courses with hundreds or thousands of students in each course. Currently, few MOOCs offer college “credit” albeit many offer certificates of completion. The learning theory supporting many MOOCs is called Connectivism, which assumes that learning is neural, conceptual, and social. Stephen Downs, a Connectivist expert, said, “to teach is to model and demonstrate, to learn is to practice and reflect.” For more on Connectivism see the following:
* “What is Connectivism?” This is a 15 minute presentation by George Siemens, a Connectivist expert.
* Connectivism: Wikipedia article.

Information about current providers of MOOCs
* 33 universities support Coursera
* Two venture capital firms fund the organization.
* 213 free courses primarily in technical sciences, i.e., science, computer science, math, and engineering
* The following is a partial listing of courses outside of the technical sciences.
o Humanities – 35 courses including:
o Language of Hollywood – Storytelling, sound and color – 5 weeks
o Science, technology and society in China – 3 weeks.
o Sports and society – 8 weeks
o Archeology’s dirty little secrets – 8 weeks
o Writing in the sciences – 8 weeks
o Listening to world music – 7 weeks
o Economics – 23 courses including:
o Fundamentals of personal financial planning – 7 weeks
o Microeconomic principles – 8 weeks
o Macroeconomic principles – 6 weeks
o Generating the wealth of nations – 6 weeks
o Climate change – 9 weeks
o Computer Science – 22 courses
* Recent major problem: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/04/coursera-forced-call-mooc-amid-complaints-about-

* Started February 2012
* Set up by Stanford University
* Has offered 15 free courses as of March, 2013
* All courses in technical disciplines
* Partnering with San Jose State to offer $150/course under graduate courses.
* Charles River Associates appears to be their sponsor.

* MIT and Harvard started
* Partners include:
o University of Texas System
o UC Berkeley
o Georgetown
o Wellesley College
* Have offered nine free courses in chemistry, computer science, and electronics so far.
* First liberal arts courses to be offered in the Fall 2013 by Wellesley.

MIT Open Courseware Consortium
* Started in 2001
* The OCW Consortium includes 250 universities providing over 13,000 courses
* MIT offers free 2150 courses
* So far they estimate 100 million people have used their services.
* They provide courses in 11 major topic areas including:
o Business
o Energy
o Engineering
o Fine arts (8 courses)
o Health & Medicine
o Humanities (500 + courses)
o Mathematics
o Science
o Social Science
o Society
o Teaching and Education
* Demographics of students
o 43% are life-long learners
o 42% are students
o 9% are educators
o 44% North America
o 17% Europe and Russia
o 20% China and SE Asia
o 9% India and nearby nations

Sofia: Offer the following community college courses
* Creative typography
* Physical geography
* Enterprise network security
* Elementary statistics
* Intro to Java programing
* Intro to Macromedia Flash
* Muscianship
* Webpage authoring

General information about MOOCs
* Top 10 sites for MOOCs and good video (at the end) about what is a MOOC:
* Find a MOOC: http://www.mooc.ca/courses.htm
* How to succeed in a MOOC: Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8avYQ5ZqM0
* What is a MOOC? Some great background info and instructional design considerations.

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