Chuck: Academy & Community Asset

On Grand Meteoron Plaza

Like many Academy participants, Chuck Shannon was no newcomer to lifelong learning when he discovered The Academy. Among other things, he and his wife Jo have always searched for travel options with a strong educational emphasis. “One of my more dynamic experiences,” he notes, “was a tour that [encompassed] an in-depth assessment of the effects of Nazism and Soviet occupation on Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.”

On Grand Meteoron PlazaSo Chuck’s expectations were high when Jo urged him to follow in her footsteps and take one of Jim Kneser’s economics classes, while Chuck was still working. When his expectations were more than exceeded, the well-known “Academy Addiction” kicked in: he was hooked on The Academy. After retiring, he plunged into classes led by Dr. Bennie Bub, Dr. Abe Flexer and Dr. Lew House. “Academy courses,” he says appreciatively, “have expanded my horizons and exposed me to quality instruction in the hard sciences for which I have no background.”

However, Chuck has his own impressive expertise in a range of other disciplines. His “two careers” began with twelve years as a division director for the Denver Regional Council of Governments and concluded with twenty-plus years in the United Way system. In his last ten years with United Way, he split his time between serving as a Mile High United Way vice-president and as a senior fellow with the United Way of America. In the latter role, he focused on developing national initiatives for the organization, fostered by his serving part-time as a fellow at Harvard. He envisions his most significant contribution to the United Way system as helping the nonprofit “define low-income communities in terms of their assets, not their liabilities,” thus “avoiding the stigma and labeling [that comes with a focus on] their deficits and problems.”

Chuck’s post-retirement volunteerism embodies the same positive, community-building approach that he initiated at United Way. As an Arapahoe Library District volunteer, he has engaged immigrants from 62 countries in English conversational circles for the past four years. In addition, he has volunteered with Denver Kids, Inc., which partners with the Denver Public Schools to match students with mentors. Though his Denver Kids commitment was a formal one for the first three years, Chuck is now informally mentoring one student from the program (currently enrolled at CU) “as a friend.”

Clearly Chuck is among many at The Academy who are making an invaluable contribution (to borrow his own language) as “community assets.”

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Roberta Klein’s Record: Most Academy Classes Ever

2-Roberta-Klein

Don’t you envy Roberta Klein? A “lifelong student who wanted to keep engaged,” she holds the record for taking the most Academy classes. Of course, she got a head start on many of us, since she has enrolled every year, beginning with The Academy’s very first term eleven years ago. She learned first-hand about The Academy’s launch from Sally Kneser, one of The Academy’s co-founders and Roberta’s longtime friend from years of playing bridge and riding a ski bus together.

2-Roberta-Klein (2)But Roberta laughs off any notion that she deserves any special recognition as a student, saying, “I concentrate on courses requiring the least homework!” But that doesn’t mean the courses she tackles are lightweights. “I love thinking about things I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise,” she notes, citing this fall’s course Justice on a Tightrope, led by retired attorney Ted Borrillo. In examining the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, for example, she was struck by “how things have improved in the justice system.”

She is also so fascinated with Paulette Wasserstein’s Contemporary American Short Stories that she has taken every new installment in this ongoing series for the past three years—and is hoping she gets her registration in early enough to get into the upcoming Spring 2014 class (it always fills quickly). Roberta is particularly impressed with “the tremendous interaction” in every one of Paulette’s courses.

She is equally enthralled with Robin McNeil’s music classes—a wonderful chance to “try to fill in a total gap” in her background, she notes. She is constantly amazed by both how much she learns and how he “just sits down at the piano and comes up [spontaneously] with a tune” to illustrate the point he’s making.

Just as valuable as The Academy’s courses, she emphasizes, is “meeting so many people who are so intelligent and knowledgeable.” Of course, Roberta is one of those people herself—someone whom the rest of us so enjoy meeting and getting to know. With her love of learning and her professional experience heading up the Denver Public Library’s Great Books program, after several years as a New York City teacher, she’s a perfect fit for The Academy.

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