On Monday evenings in Waupaca, ordinary people prove over and over again that the philosophers and psychologists are right: Adults do like to keep on learning, no matter their age or how many years they have spent in school. People don’t outgrow being curious.
As of April 6, 2015, area audiences will have come to 600 different Monday evening educational programs offered by the Winchester Academy. Always free, with no admission charge or membership requirements, the costs are funded by gifts and sponsorships.
Sometimes more than 100 area residents fill the room, people who are simply interested in learning something new or expanding what they already know.
The speakers are, for the most part, experts – sometimes scholarly, sometimes internationally renowned, sometimes self-developed.. Some have come from distances like Minnesota, Illinois, even Southern Ontario. Some are local people. Many are from Wisconsin’s universities.
They have one thing almost universally in common – they love our audiences, those interested, informed adults who ask great questions and appreciate the speaker’s willingness to share.
Many speakers ask to come again. They simply love to share their own enthusiastic search for knowledge and understanding with others who want to learn.
Who are some of these speakers? Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, of the Wisconsin Supreme Court; Jack Mitchell, living poster-person for the Wisconsin Idea and Public Radio; Rollo Dilworth, choral professor at an Illinois Lutheran college, (who brought his Gospel-singing choir with him); Christopher Hill, a physicist with the Fermi labs and the University of Chicago; George Lorenz, a retired Waupaca social studies teacher (history of the Shaker movement and their beautifully restored commuity Pleasant Hill in Eastern Kentucky).
We have heard Ed Linenthal from UW Oshkosh, intimately involved with choosing and displaying the contents of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; Jerry Salan, retired Waupaca physician (early medical care in Waupaca to the present); Kathleen Stokker of Luther College (how the Norwegians used humor to cope with the Nazi occupation during WWII); Matthew Rothschild of Madison (the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin and the nation).
Many will remember David Kahler, supervising architect for the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum; Brett Barker, unabashed Civil War buff from UW-Marathon County; two young women from UW-Madison (exploring the “nano” world); Patty Loew, UW professor, Wisconsin Public Radio producer and native American, (the Indian Nations of Wisconsin and their histories of endurance.) and 586 more. Artists and authors, professors and hobbiests, scientists, educators and civil servants.
There have been some wacky topics as well (Songs of Wisconsin’s Toads and Frogs), and musical performance or artwork along with education. An overriding principle is variety: “From A to Z – from Arts to Zoology,” something for everyone..
Who knows what the next 600 topics will bring, but the programming committee is already lining up speakers for 2016. Winchester Academy is part of life in Waupaca.