It was an enlightening trip to his daughter’s college in New York that inspired Steven Schragis to start his own mini university.
During that visit, professors presented short talks to parents on different subjects, an experience that left parents looking at each other and expressing jealousy that they weren’t the ones in school.
Schragis’ One Day University launched in 2006, featuring top professors delivering lectures on a broad mix of topics. This year, One Day University is scheduled to host 191 live lecture events in more than 45 cities, including two stops in Seattle on Sept. 21 and Nov. 16. Another Seattle date is already in the books for February.
At the September event, Rutgers University professor Louis Masur will visit Seattle and use stories, facts and images to illustrate Abraham Lincoln’s humanity, ambition and triumph over challenges.
“He’s this figure we need to reclaim and humanize, because he’s been transformed into marble and bronze,” says Masur, who has written two books on Lincoln.
Everett resident and retired 911 dispatcher Marilyn Rexilius, 77, is excited to see Masur’s talk. She’s been a One Day University “student” for years; the first she attended was on “The Science of Happiness.”
She vouches for the experience: “Lovely people come and visit us with information about different topics, and all of them are just so interesting.”
One Day University professors hail from institutions such as the California Institute of Technology, Yale, Washington University in St. Louis, Brown University and Amherst College.
“Even if they’re Pulitzer or Nobel Prize winners, we don’t hold it against them,” says Schragis. “What’s important is their teaching ability. Can they ‘wow’ an entire classroom?”
Professors selected are skilled at entertaining while imparting wisdom — and are treasured by students.
Passionate presentations and demonstrating contemporary relevance can make history fascinating, according to Masur. Audiences should be able to connect with a historical figure not just intellectually, but emotionally, as well.
Classes explore liberal arts, psychology, business, science and religion, and offer titles such as: “Forever Young: How Scientists Are Learning to Keep Us From Getting Old,” “The Psychology of Good and Evil” and “Science vs. Faith: Addressing History’s Oldest Debate.”
More than 70,000 people have attended One Day University Events since 2011, across the United States, and 66% of students return for follow-up sessions. “They keep coming back,” Schragis says.
Seattle was one of the first cities to try out One Day University, outside the New York area. (The Seattle Times is a presenting partner in Seattle.) Lectures take place in Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus, which imbues the day’s events with the right atmosphere, according to Rexilius.
“They’re actively engaged in the life of the mind,” Masur says. “I’m always impressed by the questions I get.”
Schragis describes adult students as “well-educated, intellectually curious,” and says people attend to have a good time, while trading insights or commentary — much like a Broadway show.
“A remarkable amount of doctors say, ‘I was premed and didn’t get to take an art, music or a history course, so this is a pleasure, and it’s exciting to hear from a star lecturer,’” Schragis says.
Even Masur often stays on after his lectures, to listen in on fellow professors.
“Learning never ends,” he says.
One Day University in Seattle
Sept. 21. Louis Masur, Rutgers University American studies and history professor discusses “The Mind of Abraham Lincoln,” Kenneth Miller of Brown University will speak on “Science vs. Faith: Addressing History’s Oldest Debate,” while Amherst College’s Catherine Sanderson will discuss the “The Psychology of Good and Evil.” (Sold out.)
Nov. 16. A Day of Genius: Exploring the human capacity for brilliance, including the genius of Michelangelo and scientific genius of Marie Curie, along with the rival geniuses Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla (Edison’s one-time employee) who competed to electrically empower America.
Feb. 8, 2020. “The Amazing/Terrifying Future of Medicine” with Jacob Appel, of Brown University; “The American Revolution: Remarkable Stories You’ve Never Heard Before” with Richard Bell, of University of Maryland; and “Masterpieces of Art that Changed All the Rules,” with Denise Budd, of Columbia University.
Early registration is encouraged, as the event tends to sell out. Click here to register.