Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech


Fall 2023 Special Events are a free benefit of LLI membership. You must be a currently enrolled member to participate in these special learning opportunities.

Four Free Zoom Webinars have unlimited enrollment. Seven free Lectures at Warm Hearth and several other free programs are also on the schedule. You can register online for Special Events on the same screen as your course selections. You may register for as many Special Events as you plan to attend.

Aging in place seminar

Special Events: A Free Member Benefits

Both in-person and Zoom events are available for Fall 2024. Register for as many of the free events as you plan to attend.

Lectures at Warm Hearth

The seven free LLI lectures at Warm Hearth are open to Warm Hearth residents. LLI members are asked to register; Warm Hearth residents do not need to register.

42. A Lifetime Career as a Russia Watcher
DATE/TIME: Monday, Sep 18, 1:00 – 2:30
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

This presentation offers a rare firsthand viewpoint on recent Russian history as observed by retired career diplomat Ken Yalowitz over a period of nearly four volatile decades. In various leadership roles served in Moscow, and later during his tenure as Ambassador to Belarus and then Georgia, Yalowitz witnessed at close hand the apparent strength and then collapse of the USSR, the end of the Cold War, the rise of Putin, and the Russian invasions of Ukraine. He will help us put these events in perspective, and in the process look ahead into an unknowable future: Will the West stay united? How might this war end?

In addition to being U.S. Ambassador to Belarus and then Georgia from 1994 to 2001, Ken Yalowitz served various roles at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Ken served on the faculty at Dartmouth and now teaches part-time at Virginia Tech.

43. Electric Bikes
DATE/TIME: Friday, Sep 22, 9:00 – 11:00
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

Join us to hear more about how to shop for and enjoy an electric bike. Electric bikes are great for the Huckleberry Trail, the New River State Trail, and trails in various subdivisions with hilly terrain. We’ll start with various kinds of bikes, including cargo bikes for shopping, mountain bikes for the more adventurous, recumbent bikes, and then focus on three-wheeled electric tricycles (etrikes) which are particularly good for seniors who have balance problems or who never learned to ride a two-wheeled bike. Several types of electric bikes and tricycles will be on display, and owners will be available to answer questions.

Dave Roper has been an advocate and educator for electric vehicles for many years. He is now a fan of etrikes, which he and several friends regularly use to cruise the Huckleberry Trail.

44. Biochar Production and Use on the Family Farm
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, Sep 27, 11:00 – 12:30
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

Climate advocates, farmers, and gardeners know that the world has a carbon problem. The atmosphere has too much carbon and the soil too little. Biochar (biological charcoal) is a readily available carbon sequestration tool that can fix the carbon cycle in a way that benefits people and nature—by taking it out of the atmosphere and putting it into soil and products for human use. The presentation will explain what biochar is, how it is made, and where it can be used effectively.

Harry Groot owns a sustainable forestry products firm that has been making biochar and assisting with related research and industry development since 2015. He actively participates in his family’s Montgomery County farm, which is dedicated to long-term forest stewardship and the conservation of Heritage Livestock Breeds.

45. Dancing at the Warm Springs Hotel
DATE/TIME: Monday, Oct 23, 1:30 – 3:00
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

Besides two historic bath houses in Warm Springs, Virginia, all that remains of a once leading destination resort in the Appalachian Mountains are the images and legends that are brought back to life in this presentation. “Dancing at the Warm Springs Hotel” tells a half-century-long story of the multicultural society that once populated the famous hotel. Showcasing nineteenth century politics, social customs, class, gender, and fashion, the presentation paints a picture of two communities, separated by race, who worked together to create memorable experiences for guests and hotel workers alike. Rare photography of men and women, black and white, at work and at play, creates an unforgettable portrait of the changing social norms and fashions in this now-vanished nineteenth century resort.

Kathleen Curtis Wilson is a nationally known speaker, exhibitions curator, and author of five books, including Dancing at the Warm Springs Hotel (2022). An Appalachian textile historian, Wilson moved back to Virginia in 2022 to continue her work.

46. An Afternoon with Nikki Giovanni
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, Oct 31, 1:30 – 3:00
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

Acclaimed poet and activist Nikki Giovanni reads from her work on October 31 in the Tall Oaks Room of the Warm Hearth Village Center. Giovanni’s poetry has won many prestigious awards, but it has also spoken powerfully to a broad spectrum of ordinary readers around the world. Her verse “has spurred movements, turned hearts and informed generations,” writes Poetry Foundation. “She’s been hailed as a firebrand, a radical, a healer, and a sage; a wise and courageous voice who has spoken out on the sensitive issues, including race and gender, that touch our national consciousness.”

Nikki Giovanni was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award. Among many other recognitions, she has also received the American Book Award, the Langston Hughes Award, the Virginia Governor’s Award, and the NAACP Image Award (7 times). In May she became the first woman to win Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Scholar award, recognizing "truly extraordinary service to humanity."

47. Palliative Care – What’s It All About? Healthy Dialogue with LewisGale Hospital Montgomery
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, Nov 8, 1:30-3:00
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

Many of us have experienced the stress and strain of serious illness, either personally or with a family member. Palliative care is specialized medical care, available at any age and any stage of disease. The goal of this care is to improve the quality of life for patients and their families, with a focus on providing relief of symptoms and stress of the illness.

Bring your questions and join us for a surprisingly uplifting discussion, followed by a Q&A session, about the often misunderstood role of palliative care.

Nicole Thompson is a palliative nurse specialist at LewisGale Hospital Montgomery. She serves as a consultant for those with serious and chronic illnesses, promoting and facilitating difficult conversations with patients, families, and the Interdisciplinary Team regarding goals of care. Nicole has more than 30 years of nursing experience, including two decades in an ICU setting. She found her true calling in 2015 when she transitioned to hospice nursing.

48. Listening to Landowners: Rural Appalachia Responds to the Mountain Valley Pipeline
DATE/TIME: Friday, Nov 17, 1:30-3:00
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room

How did rural Appalachian landowners respond to the development and presence of the Mountain Valley Pipeline? This presentation will share the results of recent research into that question. As of today, more than five years after it was permitted, the pipeline project is still not complete, due in part to opposition by many, but by no means all of the people in its path. Pipeline developers, as well as prior researchers, misjudged landowners’ perceptions of the danger and disruption to the lives and livelihoods of those with longstanding attachments to the land.

Dr. Steve Gerus has undergraduate and master’s degrees in anthropology and a recent PhD in sociology. In this presentation, he combines sensitivities to the various and sometimes competing cultural interests of rural Appalachian landowners and the business interests of investors in utility-grade infrastructure projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Hands-on Technology Training

49 A, 49 B. Enjoy Free Audio Books, eBooks, and Magazines on Your Devices

Two in-person sessions; choose one based on your device

49 A: Apple Devices
Wednesday, Sep 20, 10:30 – 12:30

49 B: Android Devices
Wednesday, Sep 20, 2:30 – 4:30

LOCATION: Blacksburg Public Library Community Room, 200 Miller Street, Blacksburg
LIMIT: 10 per session
FEE: Free

Library experts will teach you how to read eBooks and magazines, and listen to audiobooks, all for free with OverDrive’s Libby app and your library card.

For both sessions, you will need:

  • A Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library card in good standing (sign up online at or in any branch library)
  • Bring your device: iPad or iPhone for Apple; Samsung, LG, Nexus, Kindle, etc. for Android.
  • OverDrive’s Libby app downloaded in advance from the App store for your device.

The library offers one-on-one help before the class. Just go to the desk at the library with your device to get help downloading the Libby app.

To install the Libby App, Apple devices need iOS 10 or higher, Android devices (and Kindle Fire) need Android 4.4 or higher.

Voter Education

50. Ranked Choice Voting
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, Oct 4, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Blacksburg Town Council Chambers
FEE: Free

This presentation will explore the option of ranked choice voting (RCV), an electoral method that is gaining momentum in the US and in Virginia. With RCV, voters rank all candidates in an election rather than choosing one. The benefits of this method include better representation of voters’ viewpoints and more collegial campaigning. The need for costly runoff elections is bypassed because the candidate who garners more than 50% of the vote wins. If no one gets a majority of votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is disqualified. Voters whose candidate is eliminated then have their second choice counted..

Liz White, Executive Director of UpVote Virginia, a nonpartisan democracy reform collective. UpVote Virginia is dedicated to ensuring that Virginia leads the way in improving the structure of our electoral system to better reflect the will of voters, thus providing for a more representative, inclusive, open, and transparent government.

Chris DeRosa, League of Women Voters of Virginia. The League encourages informed and active participation in government to increase understanding of major public policy issues and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.

Free Zoom Webinars

Webinars allow us to hear from great speakers – no matter where they are! LLI at VT also partners with AARP Virginia to offer this series to AARP members nationally.

51. Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow
DATE/TIME: Friday, Sep 29, 1:30 – 3:00

Judy Garland was an icon of the screen, best known for the Wizard of Oz, which was filmed when she was only 16. Despite many successes at MGM studios, her career there ended when she was dismissed 12 years later. Loved by her fans, Judy Garland immediately went on to a hugely successful career outside of the movies as a concert performer. This course will fill in the background of Garland's life and career with little-known facts and show many clips that present the emotional depth she projected until her death at age 47 in 1969.

An LLI favorite, Dan Sherman previously brought us Hamilton, Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Sondheim and more. He loves sharing his passion for theater, opera, and the movies to adult audiences.

52. Glass and the Architectural Imagination: Contemporary Case Studies
DATE/TIME: Friday, Oct 13, 1:30– 3:00

Neither liquid nor solid, glass possesses a transformative quality unequaled among building materials. Throughout history, it has captured the imagination and reflected the culture of designers and consumers. As early as the 11th century, the fragility and rarity of glass made it precious, exquisite, and exclusive; it remains a symbol of conspicuous consumption today. At the same time, glass connects us to the outdoors and in modern times has been associated with idealism and utopian vision. Recent advancements in chemical coating, structural engineering, and fabrication methods have altered the architectural possibilities for the use of glass. In this talk, Aki Ishida will present examples of contemporary glass architecture that demonstrate its complex array of material effects as well as its mutable cultural and social meanings.

Aki Ishida (AIA, LEED AP) is associate professor architecture and interim associate director of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture and School of Design. She is also a senior fellow of the University’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT), where she collaborates with engineers and artists. She received her MS in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University and Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Minnesota.

53. Virginia Tech Moving Cancer Research Beyond Boundaries
DATE/TIME: Friday, Oct 27, 1:30 – 3:00

The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute has taken the lead in bringing resources and people together from a wide spectrum of fields to achieve a common goal: to help fight cancer through innovative research. Development of novel approaches to prevention, diagnostics, and therapeutics for a variety of cancers are on the horizon thanks to deepening collaborations among researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, the Virginia Tech Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, colleagues at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC. and at Carilion Clinic, and other scientists at Virginia Tech who participate in the university’s Cancer Research Alliance.

This webinar is a chance to learn how experts in human and animal cancer research are forging new paths and achieving exciting breakthroughs in cancer research.

Michael Friedlander is the vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech, where he also serves as the founding executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the senior dean for research at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He has built the institute’s research programs to over $170 million in current grant value with 38 research teams and over 400 investigators and students since its founding in 2010.

54. Assateague: A Natural History Primer
DATE/TIME: Friday, Nov 10, 1:30 – 3:00

Join Keith Tomlinson, garden educator and naturalist, on a virtual tour of Assateague Island National Seashore and neighboring Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The barrier islands have their own ecology and geomorphology on the continental margin, their ephemeral landscapes bound by the Coastal Plain and the restless Atlantic Ocean. Marine and continental biomes converge to create the area’s intriguing natural space, which attracts visitors seeking recreational opportunities including remote beach hiking, birding, biking, and camping. Appealing as well are the managed free-ranging herds of horses.

Keith Tomlinson also explores unique maritime forests, dune communities, and intertidal wetlands, as well as the island’s fascinating human history.

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