MARCH 2022



In like a lamb, March is finally here and bringing unusually warm and welcomed weather. LLI is bringing some welcomed new in-person events to participants, as well. We are excited to add a free special event to the calendar - Visualizing Virginia Tech History and to announce our spring social event at Warm Hearth featuring light dinner fare and music by local favorites, “Off Our Rockers.” More information on these events is below. Both require special registration; follow the links to register for these.


You can add previously-announced special events to your schedule by going to your CPE account (or calling the LLI registrar at 231-4364); events include a conversation with Edgar Meyer and the Scottish Ensemble at the Moss Center (Zoom option available), a talk on the ins and outs of long-haul travel in electric cars, and the walking tour of Downtown Christiansburg on Apr 20.


Membership and enrollment is still open with new courses beginning in March, as well as continued Free Friday Lectures through April 8. To join and register.




Immersive Journey through Virginia Tech History

Special Free Event for LLI Members

Visualizing Virginia Tech History” is an interactive multimedia tour of campus created by the Virginia Tech History Lab, a transdisciplinary team of faculty and students engaged in rethinking the relationship between technology and the humanities and engaging diverse audiences across campus and beyond.


LLI members are invited to a free private tour of the exhibits displayed at Solitude hosted by Associate Professor Paul Quigley and History Lab colleagues and students, and Victoria Ferguson, Program Coordinator for Solitude. The History Lab team has focused on uncovering the hidden histories of Virginia Tech. To learn more about these special exhibits and what you might see during our tour, click on this link. The exhibits were created as part of Virginia Tech’s Sesquicentennial celebration.





March’s featured instructors are the dynamic duo - Josiah Tlou and Joseph Mukuni, instructors of Modern Africa: Challenges of Nation Building. Although each have different backgrounds, their love for and pride in their Africa is inspiring.


Josiah, a native of Zimbabwe, is a Virginia Tech professor emeritus who left a lasting footprint in Botswana, Kenya, and Malawi helping lead the establishment of self-sustaining primary education programs within leading universities in these countries. As a result of his efforts, these African countries are now leading their own teacher education programs, rather than depending on the US and professors of other countries voluntarily training their teachers. Although Josiah has been retired from academia for some time, his legacy remains today. Successful outcomes include University of Malawi and three campuses with teacher education programs, and Botswana Tlou graduates who hold esteemed university leadership positions as Dean of the School of Education and senior members of university council.


In addition to his achievements in Africa, Josiah is a respected ceramist  who was trained by a student of the architecturally iconic Bauhaus School  - the famous American Bauhaus legend Marguerite Wildenhain .


Prior to coming to the U.S., Zambia native Joseph Mukuni was a teacher, education administrator, and government-level director or educational development initiaives. In his work, Joseph’s passion focused on identifying a university where young Zambian teachers could further their education. Partnering with Virginia Tech, Joseph helped lead efforts to train teachers to return to Zambia and build their own teacher training infrastructure. To further his efforts in workforce development capacity building across Africa, Joseph chose to pursue his doctoral degree at Virginia Tech and currently leads the Career and Technical Education program in the Virginia Tech School of Education.


A proud resident of the New River Valley, Joseph calls this region home. He credits it to the global diversity within the Blacksburg area, “. . .this is really like the United Nations. You have people from all over the world.” Additionally, Joseph appreciates the safety in the community adding that he can leave his car unlocked and feel safe.


In conversations with both Josiah and Joseph, there was a shared overarching theme regarding their personal philosophies and interests – Ubuntu. A South African social philosophy, the Ubuntu way of life emphasizes respect, dignity, community, and shared identities of all humankind. Participants in their spring course can expect to learn Ubuntu more immersively, as well as a true picture of the Africa of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Josiah and Joseph’s course seeks to breakdown media-led stereotypical perceptions of Africa of starvation, war, and despair. Instead, Josiah and Joseph will lead students through a historical journey of Africa, and a virtual tour of the beauty, culture, proud sense of community, and intoxicating energy of today’s Africa. In the collaboration-emphasized philosophy of Ubuntu, the course will be a knowledge sharing opportunity for participants to share their personal insights and experiences within Africa, as well.


Enthusiastic energy easily surface when describing Josiah and Joseph and their passion for Africa and empowering others. Participants in their course can expect nothing less than the same. Thus, we are very proud to recognize Josiah Tlou and Joseph Mukuni as this month’s featured instructors of LLI.

Course Details - Modern Africa: Challenges of Nation Building. 1:00 - 2:30 PM, Feb 22, Mar 1, 15, 22, 29, Apr 5 (skip Mar 8). Location - Hillel at Virginia Tech.


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April 8, 5:00-8:00 p.m. will be the long-awaited opportunity to gather in community at Warm Hearth Village. Join us for light dinner fare and a good time, $20 per person. “Off Our Rockers” will perform – do you see some familiar faces in this group? Register here for this special social event. Thanks to Judy Ridinger, Social Committee Chair, for organizing this opportunity to gather with the LLI and Warm Hearth community.




Our March LLI featured volunteer is Penny Tully. Penny spent most of her early years growing up in West Virginia and graduated from Marshall University with a degree in biological sciences. After a brief post-college stint working with church youth groups, Penny completed her graduate degree in Religious Education. This educational path led her to work with churches in Mississippi and North Carolina, and then as the Admissions and Alumni Director at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. 


From there, her career took her to the University of Michigan where she continued graduate coursework in Adult Education and remained with the university for nineteen years in the Conferences and Seminars Department planning short-term professional development events and workshops.


Upon retirement, Penny relocated to Radford and brought her program curriculum development expertise with her. Accordingly, Penny’s background has been a tremendous asset to LLI’s program committee, as well the special events subgroup (the field trips team), history and current events subgroup, and contributions to the science committee. In addition to program development, Penny is also the chair of the LLI Board of Directors until 2023.


Penny’s active LLI engagement is not only behind the scenes. She takes pride in taking a broad variety of courses each term. When registering, she tries to balance her courses across science, literature, and history each term. When asked which courses were her favorite, Penny enthusiastically responded, “All of them!” She added that she particularly enjoys courses that offer a variety of topics and discussions such as participant-led TED Talks, Great Decisions, and Sampler.


As a retirement-relocated resident of the New River Valley, Penny especially appreciates the field trips and is excited to see them resume. She noted that for people like her who do not have the Virginia Tech context or settled roots in the surrounding area, the field trips allow her to visit new places, become more familiar with the area, and have a greater understanding of available resources. Penny believes that it is important for people who have moved to the New River Valley to get to know the people and places that make this region unique. “LLI is perfect to help people participate in their community,” she added.


Penny believes her time is best spent being socially active and intellectually engaged. She enjoys spending time with her family in the area, enjoys stimulating social activities, and is a super fan of a good mystery book. When running low for reading material, she has been known to sleuth out new book ideas from NPR.


In addition, another one of Penny’s favorite activities is her search for interesting people to invite as LLI speakers. She scans the newspaper and keeps a folder of clippings of interesting people to invite.  She finds that having diverse people speak to LLI participants enhances LLI – community collaboration, which fosters connections and supports a vibrant community. In addition to the volunteers and instructors who keep LLI and interesting and engaging program for seniors, she also greatly appreciates the contributions and support Virginia Tech and the Office of Continuing and Professional Development offer to help LLI grow and reach more people across the New River Valley.


Classes and social engagement are what keep Penny active and motivated, and she most definitely is living her best life! Penny, thank you for all you do and especially your commitment to keeping LLI connected with its participants and the surrounding community!




Wednesdays, 3:00 - 4:30 | 4 weeks
March 16, 23, 30, Apr 6
CRC Concept Room
1880 Pratt Dr. Suite 2018, Blacksburg

Led by Russell Gregory, Radford University professor emeritus of religious studies, this March course introduces participants to the silly side of Buddhism - the philosophy of Zen. While Buddhism is known as a pragmatic religion which emphasizes mindful living, Zen draws in chaos and absurdity as the path to enlightenment.


In this course, you will gain a greater understanding of Zen Buddhism and its evolutionary roots in China and Japan.  In his exploration of Zen, you will look at a philosophy through sayings and stories that, according to Russell, ". . .confound the logic, intellect and welcomes spontaneity and awareness." Russell's light-hearted and down to earth perspective of Buddhism and Zen allows participants to easily understand the concepts in a relaxed, entertaining atmosphere. A few seats remain; register today.





March is upon us and that means “So long, Old Man Winter!” The New River Valley is the prime location to enjoy the new blooms of the season and a great opportunity for you to enjoy fresh air and activities safely distanced outdoors with family and friends. Below are a few outdoor events and activities to help you kick off the new season and make it a ‘Silver Spring’.


Pandapas Pond (Blacksburg) - Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic. March 19, 12:00 – 4:00. Hosted by Blacksburg Parks and Rec this women-led beginner ride focuses on developing braking, cornering, climbing, and how to change a tire. Registration deadline March 16. 5:00 PM. Cost $20.00.


Hahn Horticulture Garden (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg) – Learn at Lunch “Early Spring Bloomers Garden Walk” led by Dr. Holly Scoggins. Wednesday, March 23, 12:00 -1:00. Free. Parking passes provided to attendees. Masks required.



Walking Tour of Downtown Christiansburg. Wednesday, April 20, 1:30 - 3:00 PM. Architectural styles, like fashion, are an indicator of culture, just as national business trends were important economic drivers throughout much of our local history. Join Sherry Joines Wyatt, curator at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History Center, on a walking tour through the heart of Downtown Christiansburg, which will serve as a learning lab for history. You'll see how the town participated in national trends of architecture and business as illustrated by buildings, monuments, and sites dating from 1853 through the early 1960s. The tour will be supplemented with historic photographs from the museum's collection and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and answers. Meet at Great Road on Main, Christiansburg. Trip Limit: 20. Cost: $15.00.



The offices of Continuing and Professional will be vacating 702 University City Blvd by mid-March. Heidi Dickens, the LLI Registrar, can still be reached at the same phone number 540-231-4364. Other CPE registrars can be reached at 540-231-5182. There may be some disruption of operations at the time of the transition, so please be patient if awaiting a return call; also it might be advisable to make your requests by email to since she will be working remotely.


CPE staff offices will be relocated temporarily to the Surge Space building located on campus at 400 Stanger Street. This will be CPE’s temporary home until construction is complete at the new permanent location in the Moss Building (1900 Kraft Drive) at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. That building has been newly renovated and office suites will be designed and constructed to house Continuing and Professional Education operations. There is no specific move-in date yet for the CRC space, but it is not expected to be ready before early 2023.


We’ll keep you informed about how fall walk-in registration will be handled once the offices have relocated to the Surge Space Building!




LLI members are invited to submit articles, announcements, photos, or other items that may be of interest to the community.  Submissions must be received by the 15th of the month for consideration in the next month's newsletter.  For more information or to submit an item: Newsletter Editor, Cris Thompson, Ph.D. Student / Graduate Assistant, Virginia Tech Office of Outreach and International Affairs,  Please limit to 300 words.



Many thanks to our corporate sponsors for their generous support of the Lifelong Learning Institute.