Academy of Lifelong Learning announces Spring 2010 lecture schedule

BEMIDJI, Minn. (Feb. 22, 2010) — Nine lectures on subjects ranging from the origins of the Mississippi River to “The Wizard of Oz” comprise the spring 2010 schedule for Bemidji State University’s Academy of Lifelong Learning, coordinated by the Center for Research and Innovation.

Speakers for the spring lecture series include members of the Bemidji State faculty, including Dr. Tom Beech, associate professor of political science, and Dr. Art Lee, professor emeritus of history.

Academy of Lifelong Learning lectures are held from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Center for Research and Innovation, located at 3801 Bemidji Ave. N. in Bemidji, unless otherwise noted. The lectures are open free to the public.

Tuesday, March 2: “An Orchestra’s Effect on its Community.”
Presenter: Beverly Everett, music director, Bemidji and Bismarck-Mandan (N.D.) symphony orchestras.
In 2005, Beverly Everett became the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra’s first resident conductor. Since her arrival, the orchestra has seen an enormous increase in concert attendance and overall popularity. Under her direction, the Bemidji orchestra has grown from 35 members to 77, including professional players and a resident concertmaster and violin instructor. In Everett’s lecture, she will discuss how her orchestra’s event-based concerts and programming that help them reach a broader audience are helping to enrich their communities.

Tuesday, March 9: “Native Burial Practices within Minnesota: Then and Now.”
Presenter: Jim L. Jones, Jr., cultural resource director, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.
Jim Jones, a 24-year veteran in the field of cultural resource management, has overseen the protection of American Indian burial and cemetery sites in Minnesota for the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council since 1995. Jones will provide a general overview of American Indian burial practices from ancient burial sites and compare those practices with more modern burial traditions. He will also share recent examples from his research.

This presentation is sponsored in part by Beltrami Electric Cooperative.

Tuesday, March 16: “Regional Canadian History, the Hudson Bay Company, Louis Riel, and the Metis.”
Presenter: Tom Beech, associate professor of political science, Bemidji State University.
Tom Beech will lecture on the Hudson Bay Company and its role in the development of western Canada. He will also discuss the impact of European settlement on the Metis and Red rivers and on the Northwest Rebellions. Beech is a graduate of the University of Manitoba and holds a doctorate Penn State. He has been a member of Bemidji State’s political science department since 1999.

Tuesday, March 23: “Questions about the Physical Origins of the Mississippi River.”
Presenter: Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, professor of history, Minnesota State University, Moorhead.
Steve Hoffbeck will discuss the various quests to find the true sources of the Mississippi River, including an outline of the supposed sources of the mighty river and a practical look at the geography of the Continental Divide. Hoffbeck will also discuss the exploits of Giacomo Beltrami, a noted Italian explorer who claimed to have found the Mississippi headwaters in 1823, and evaluate his contributions to history.

This presentation is sponsored by Bemidji Appraisal Service.

Tuesday, March 30: “Gangs and Drug Task Force in the Bemidji Area.”
Presenters: Jon Hunt, DARE and school resource officer, Bemidji Middle School; and Willy Beise, Safe Trails Drug Task Force.
This team-taught presentation will explore the correlation between drugs and gangs and what gang activity may be present in our community. Jon Hunt and Willy Beise will discuss how this criminal activity affects our community’s children and what effect it has on schools and families. Hunt is a 24-year veteran of the Bemidji Police Department. Beise has more than a decade of service with the Bemidji Police Department and is currently the gang prevention and investigations specialist assigned to the Safe Trails Drug Task Force.

Tuesday, April 6: “An Inspiration of Butterflies.”
Presenter: John Weber, citizen scientist, and Marlene Weber.
An astute observer and recorder of butterfly species, behaviors, life cycle and migration, John Weber will present on the scientific, artistic and literary richness that butterflies share with humanity. Drawing from years of detailed personal documentation, he will discuss the butterfly species local observers may encounter in our rich regional convergence of ecosystems and watershed areas. In addition, he will share numerous full-color slides that demonstrate the beauty and variety of local butterfly species.

This presentation is sponsored in part by Bemidji Dairy Queen.

Tuesday, April 13: “Open World—Russian Medical Exchange Program.”
Presenter: Alice Thompson, Community Coordinator, Open World Exchange Program.
Open World’s mission is to improve understanding and cooperation between the United States and Eurasian and Baltic states by developing a network of leaders in the region who have gained significant, firsthand exposure to America’s democratic, accountable government and its free-market system. Over 14,000 people have participated in Open World programs and learned about business, civic, home and community life in the United States. Presenter and Bemidji State alumnus Alice Thompson has worked as a registered nurse and a nursing instructor. After 34 years in nursing education, she retired in 2004 and is currently the community coordinator for the Open World Exchange Program in Bemidji.

Tuesday, April 20: “Mary Gibbs: Defining Itasca.”
Presenter: Janet Rith-Najarian, Teacher-Consultant, Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education.
Janet Rith-Najarian will present a “living history” re-enactment of the life and work of Mary Gibbs, the first woman to serve as director and park manager for a state or national park. Gibbs was the third commissioner of Minnesota’s Itasca State Park, the second state park designated in the United States. Rith-Najarian’s presentation will include background on the founding of Itasca State Park and the difficulty involved in trying to determine and map the Mississippi headwaters region. Rith-Najarian has master’s and doctorate degrees in environmental science and geography and is on the board of directors for the Beltrami County Historical Society.

Tuesday, April 27: “The Wizard of Oz (A Parable on Populism).”
Presenter: Art Lee, professor emeritus of history, Bemidji State University.
Art Lee will discuss “The Wonderful World of Oz,” as created by L. Frank Baum in 1900, and how the land of Oz relates to the populist movement of the early 20th century that began with the formation of the Populist Party in 1892. Lee will explore the correlations between populism and the Land of Oz, with the Kingdom of Oz representing Washington, D.C., the Great and Powerful Oz as the President of the United States and the scarecrow representing American farmers.
Lee retired from the Bemidji State faculty in 1995 and was a two-time Outstanding Lecturer of the Year.

The Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture series is made possible in part through private donations and support from Bemidji State University. More information is available by contacting the Center for Research and Innovation at (218) 755-4900 or at

Bemidji Symphony Orchestra

About the Academy of Lifelong Learning
The Academy of Lifelong Learning is organized to provide opportunities for continuing education in the Bemidji area. Academy of Lifelong Learning programs are intended to help participants to improve their critical thinking skills and appreciate the diversity of human experience found in literature, history, languages, philosophy, anthropology and the arts. The academy is a member of the Learning in Retirement Networks, designed to promote older adult learning in the humanities. Through the humanities, network members study enduring ideas, reflect on experience, analyze important issues and contribute to the educational well-being of their communities.
For more information on the academy, visit