Spring 2020 Course Listing Now Available

Even though we’re just heading into winter, it’s time to think about spring, specifically, about the WISE courses for Spring 2021. 

Go to our WISE Courses page and see the outstanding courses in art, history, music, science, literature, drama, and nature. All courses are offered on Zoom, so you can join us wherever you are, wearing whatever you’re wearing. 

You can learn how best to use Zoom in our Zoom Coffee Break every Monday at 9 AM. (You’ll need to log in to see the coffee break page.) If you’ve attended the coffee breaks before, please note that we’ve changed the Zoom link for the months of June and July. Go to the Zoom Coffee Break page to get the new link. 

If you have additional questions, send a note to wise@assumption.edu.


By Elaine Bloom

Elaine Bloom (L) and her sister, Pauline Johnson, visit Giverny to see the home and gardens of artist Claude Monet
Elaine Bloom (L) and her sister, Pauline Johnson, visit Giverny to see the home and gardens of artist Claude Monet

For a teacher, summer is considered a time to recharge the batteries by learning something new, doing something out of the ordinary. This summer I learned new things by immersing myself in the history of France during a two-week river cruise on the Seine and the Rhone.

The first week featured aspects of the changing relationship between France and England. At Rouen the English burned Joan of Arc as a witch who dared defeat their army, but the heart of Richard the Lionhearted, one of England’s most famous kings, is entombed in the Rouen cathedral. At Bayeux we saw the tapestry which records the Norman Invasion of Britain in 1066, and later that same day we walked the Normandy beaches where their descendants led the D-Day Invasion of 1944.

The week concluded with us back in Paris on the 14th of July and docked very close to the Eiffel Tower. We had one of the best seats in the city to celebrate Bastille Day. We enjoyed an amazing display of fireworks, while being served champagne and snacks on the sundeck of our cruise ship.

The second half of the trip was down the Rhone River and the recurring theme was the influence of the ancient Romans on southern France. We saw marvelous mosaics in Vienne, an amphitheater in Arles still used for concerts, and the Pont du Gard aqueduct in all its glory. The French should really be more appreciative that the Romans brought their language and their vineyards into the territory beyond the Alps. Otherwise, the French would be speaking German and drinking beer!

There are many advantages to river cruising, not least being the “hotel” travels with you. The food is good and highlights regional specialties: frogs’ legs, escargots, mushrooms, and oysters on this trip. Offboat excursions are included for each town, and docking is often close to the town center providing options for individual investigations. Just watching the countryside glide by while sipping a cafe latte gives you a better idea of the land you are so comfortably visiting. I would heartily recommend a river cruise; since this was my fifth, I obviously enjoy them. Though, I must admit, the rivers of France cannot compare to the beauty of the Rhine.

Coincidently, WISE is sponsoring a cruise on the Rhine for the fall of 2016. You should check it out! (see “Special Events” below.)

WISE Leadership

In this, our 23rd year, WISE will be led by the following members. Together they form the WISE Council.


Sue Durham, President
Joe Corn, 1st Vice President
Marsha Addis, 2nd Vice President
Sandy Meltzer, Secretary
Chris Liazos, Treasurer

Council Members-at-Large

Elaine Bloom
Kathy Drew (new)
Josette Kaplan
Chuck Perkins (new)

Technology Advisor

Karl Hakkareinen

Committee Chairs

Communications: Marsha Addis (through 12-31-2015), Elaine Bloom (on 1-1-2016)
Curriculum: Rose Anne Farrandino
Nominating: Dave Gilligan
Special Events: Cookie Nelson
Travel: Chris Durham


Paul Mahon


Class Assistant Coordinator:  Bobbi Corn
Registrar:  Minna Gregerman

Quote of the Month

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.” — Jim Fiebig


Jim Fiebig was born into the retail jewelry business in Jonesville, Michigan. He began engraving and small jewelry repairs at age 10 in his parent’s store. After receiving a BA in Music Composition from the University of Michigan, he worked as a musician, jingle producer, and booking agent before returning to the family jewelry business with his own store in Sturgis, Michigan in 1979.

Four WISE Members Attend the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

wise.ignobleYour intrepid members Sandy Meltzer, Marsha Addis, Karl and Sandra Hakkarainen ventured to Harvard September 17 to attend this prestigious (and funny, as you can tell from the event title and our hats) ceremony.*

Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded for achievements that first make people LAUGH, and then make them THINK. The “Igs” are intended to spur public curiosity and interest in science and other fields of endeavor. Ten prizes are awarded each year, by real Nobel prize winners, for published research by scientists all over the world.

For example, this year prizes were awarded for

Determining what place on a man’s body feels the most pain from a bee sting (The scientist used himself as the research subject. Can you guess which part of his anatomy hurt the worst?)

Proving that if you attach a plunger to a chicken’s butt, the chicken will walk like a dinosaur. (The four scientists accepting this award all wore plungers attached to the rear of their pants while they demonstrated the difference between the chicken’s walk with and without.)

During the evening we were entertained also by the “24/7” lectures (given by scientists who explained their research technically in 24 seconds followed by explanations for the rest of us in 7 words). The program included an opera, written for the event by Worcester’s favorite soprano Maria Ferrante, that told the hilarious story of what happened when two people brought together one of every species in the world for a conference.

So, listen up fellow WISE members, plan to join us next year for the 26th First Annual…