Seniors go back to class
Plus: New Ledger podcast episode; And news of the week: MJ in talks to sell Hornets, CATS reveals light rail derailment, property revaluations released, CMS school assignment heats up
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Every week, hundreds of Charlotte seniors with a ‘thirst for knowledge’ gather or tune in virtually to hear Senior Scholars lectures
Earlier this month, 130 Senior Scholars gathered in person to hear guest speaker Dr. Kevin Soden talk about the evolution of vaccinations and diseases over the past century. An additional 90 people listened in over Zoom.
by Lindsey Banks
Almost every hand shot up one Friday morning this month among the 130 Senior Scholars gathered at the Queens University Sports Complex on Tyvola Road. The guest speaker had just asked if anyone recognized the black-and-white photo displayed on the presentation screen.
The photo? A room with more than two dozen iron lungs.
The guest speaker was a former physician and award-winning medical journalist who was there to share his experience on infectious diseases and vaccines. His talk referenced the coffin-shaped respirators often used for polio patients before the polio vaccine was invented in the 1950s — a time that many of those in attendance remembered well.
Senior Scholars, a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Charlotte, is celebrating its 50th year. It’s a popular club for those over the age of 50 who meet every Friday to hear from a guest speaker and socialize. Most members are in their 70s.
On this Friday morning, 221 people tuned in to Dr. Kevin Soden’s talk. Some 130 people were in-person, drinking free Dunkin Donuts coffee and munching on cookies, and another 91 were watching over Zoom.
Soden, a former emergency room physician who’s also won Tellys and Emmys for his journalism, shared his expertise for 45 minutes, and then answered questions from the audience for the remaining 15 minutes, including inquiries about the shingles vaccine and mask effectiveness.
His talk didn’t stick to the dry stuff of medical research. He also worked a few memes into his slideshow, including one that read, “Today’s work-from-home tip: Blowing on the wine in the mug will help convince your Zoom meeting that your tea is hot.” The room erupted in laughter after each meme.
‘Meaty’ topics: Senior Scholars speakers are often leaders in their fields or industries, and they speak on a vast range of topics.
Last month, Anita Earls, associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, came from Raleigh to speak to the group about social equity in the justice system. Past speakers have also included Bank of America market president Kieth Cockrell, local historian Tom Hanchett, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio and professors from UNC Charlotte and Queens University.
Senior Scholars members “appreciate a good speaker with a meaty subject,” said member Nancy Stancill, a published author and a former Charlotte Observer editor. “Because older people are more fragile in their bodies, does that mean that they don’t have a thirst for knowledge?”
Stancill, who has been a member for 10 years, said that other senior programs are usually focused on the topics of health and nutrition, but that’s not the case with Senior Scholars.
Before Covid, Senior Scholars had close to 1,000 members. The pandemic forced the group to hold meetings online, so membership numbers went down. Once in-person meetings resumed, membership rose again. It now totals slightly under 700, with an average of 116 people attending in person each week and 71 watching over Zoom. Some retirement communities stream the meetings for their residents.
Len Norman currently serves as president and oversees meetings and various committees that help the organization run smoothly, including committees for technology, marketing and social outings. The technology committee streams the meetings for those who are listening in on Zoom. For the past five years, the meeting recordings have been uploaded online to the club’s archives.
Senior Scholars has outgrown its meeting spaces a few times. It used to meet regularly at the Queens Sports Complex on Tyvola Road but now usually meets at Providence United Methodist Church. (The group had to meet at the sports complex last week because a local Boy Scout troop had booked the church space.)
Senior Scholars is primarily funded through memberships. A one-year membership is $35, and a renewal is $25. Membership includes admission to weekly meetings, a name tag and invitations to outings and field trips. Memberships can be purchased online upon registering for a meeting.
In addition to weekly meetings, Senior Scholars also hosts monthly lunches for members called the “Lunch Bunch,” a yearly overnight retreat at the Wildacres resort in the mountains near Little Switzerland, and various field trips and outings throughout the year.
Social benefits: For many retired seniors, finding ways to socialize with others who share common interests or are in the same station in life can be challenging.
“Unless you live in a retirement area, it’s hard to make friends unless you have a dog or kid,” said BG Metzler.
Metzler, 79, has been a member for over 20 years. She’s retired from her roles as a weather anchor and producer for the predecessor of WCNC-TV Channel 36 and from her marketing positions at Discovery Place and Charlotte Center City Partners.
Metzler said one of the most memorable meetings was one a few years ago during which the group heard from co-speakers De Kirkpatrick, a forensic psychologist, and Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick. The two men were classmates at Myers Park High School back in the mid-1960s. De discovered his family owned enslaved people who were related to Jimmie. The two Kirkpatricks developed a friendship and began sharing their story publicly.
“They got a standing ovation,” Metzler recalled. “It was so interesting and so well-accepted, and they were such good speakers.”
While the speakers are an important part of Senior Scholars, Norman said for some members, the meetings serve as their social outing for the week. They look forward to the socialization aspect of the organization.
“We started as a group to give seniors a chance to keep their minds active and also to socialize, and I think we’ve all seen through Covid that socialization is really important,” Norman said. “When you’re not working anymore, to be able to get out with people your own age is a really great thing.”
Lindsey Banks is a staff reporter for The Ledger: email@example.com
🎧 New Charlotte Ledger Podcast episode: Turning business leaders into authors
Fabi Preslar was preparing to start her senior year of high school in Columbia, S.C., when her father lost his restaurant business. Preslar and her family lost their home in the process.
They were taken in by a family near Winston-Salem, N.C., and after graduating high school, Preslar wanted to start her own life as a creative designer. She moved to Charlotte and graduated from Central Piedmont Community College.
Preslar founded SPARK Publications in 1998 as a home-based graphic design firm. It’s since grown into a custom-publishing design firm that works with business leaders to help tell their stories through books and magazines.
In this week’s episode of The Charlotte Ledger Podcast, Preslar discusses what brought her to Charlotte, how SPARK helps businesses grow through publishing and some of the lessons she’s learned along the way.
This podcast episode is part of a series highlighting winners of The Ledger’s 40 Over 40 Awards, presented by U.S. Bank, which honor and celebrate often unheralded people over the age of 40 who are making important contributions to Charlotte. Mark your calendars: This year’s celebration is April 27 at the Charlotte Museum of History. (Details to come; independent judges are now judging the nominations.)
How to listen: The Charlotte Ledger Podcast is available on our website, as well as on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast and Google Podcasts. We release new episodes on Fridays. Most are under 25 minutes.
Halfway through Charlotte Ledger Month: We have some work to do on our Drive to 25(00)
Hey, we could use your help: We’re trying to get to 2,500 paid members by the end of the month, as we celebrate our 4th birthday. If we get there, we’ll throw a birthday party and invite all our paying members — with beer and wine on us.
If you’re one of the 13,000+ people on our free list, we invite you to join us as a paying member today. Reader support is crucial to helping us deliver smart, original journalism to Charlotte, and a membership unlocks full access to every article we produce. In case you missed it, we’ve been chronicling this month where we fit into Charlotte’s media landscape, and our strategy for building a media company that’s built to last.
Pro-Charlotte: The Ledger is a locally owned small business with deep roots in Charlotte. All our employees — all three of us — live in Charlotte. We care about Charlotte. We hire people in Charlotte, including a lot of freelance writers. We’re not part of a large media conglomerate that siphons money to out-of-state corporate overlords.
Spread the word: If you’re one of our paying members, first of all: thank you. We wouldn’t exist without you. We’re running a referral contest this month, with prizes, so if you could tell people about The Ledger by email or social media using the share button below, we’d appreciate it! (And you could get some Ledger swag — details here.)
We’re about halfway through the month but only about 1/3 of the way toward our goal — there’s a ways to go!
Thanks, and have a great weekend. —Tony Mecia
Related Ledger articles:
“Local news: after turmoil, rays of hope” (March 16)
“Unfrozen caveman journalist: How The Charlotte Ledger evolved from an idea into a legit and growing small business” (March 9)
“Happy Charlotte Ledger Month: How You Can Help” (March 2)
This week in Charlotte: First ‘social districts’ on the horizon; County property revaluations released; CATS reveals details of 2022 light rail derailment; Michael Jordan in talks to sell Hornets; New Harris Teeter logo
On Saturdays, The Ledger sifts through the local news of the week and links to the top articles — even if they appeared somewhere else. We’ll help you get caught up. That’s what Saturdays are for.
South Charlotte school reassignment: (Ledger 🔒) Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is restarting discussions with parents on shifting boundary lines in south Charlotte, a process that could affect up to 43 different schools. Parents sounded off at a meeting Wednesday at Myers Park High School.
First ‘social districts’ coming soon? (Observer) The Plaza Midwood Merchants Association and Gilde Brewery in the “LoSo” area could be approved by the City Council as soon as May to become “social districts,” where people can walk outside legally while carrying open containers of alcohol.
Tougher rioting penalties: (Observer) Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday he declined to block new legislation to increase criminal penalties for violent rioting. The bill cleared the General Assembly with bipartisan support last week.
CATS derailment revealed: (WFAE) The interim CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System revealed that a light rail train derailed in May 2022 and that CATS needs to fix a mechanical problem on more than 40 trains. Until then, light rail cars will travel at a maximum speed of 35 mph.
Reval time: (Ledger 🔒) Mecklenburg County released new property valuations on Friday, which will be used to determine the amounts owners pay in property taxes.
Park to be named after McColl: The City Council approved a plan to renovate a small park at Trade and Tryon streets uptown and to rename it after Hugh McColl Jr., the former CEO of Bank of America.
Banking turmoil: (WFAE) It has been a turbulent week in Charlotte’s banking industry, as banks big and small grapple with the fallout from the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. The Ledger’s Tony Mecia broke down the implications in a conversation on WFAE.
Zara heading to SouthPark: (Axios Charlotte) Some Charlotte shoppers are excited about the news that clothing chain Zara is opening a store at SouthPark Mall.
Coworking acquisition: (Axios Charlotte) Charlotte coworking company Hygge has been acquired by COhatch, a national coworking company, which says it plans to expand here.
Hornets to be sold? (ESPN) Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who has owned the team since 2010, is in talks to sell his majority stake in the team to two financiers.
Furman Fever: The NCAA men’s basketball tournament tipped off Thursday — without the North Carolina Tar Heels — and one of the biggest upsets was by 13-seed Furman University of Greenville, S.C., which beat 4-seed Virginia with a last-second three-pointer.
From the Ledger family of newsletters
Silicon Valley Bank worries: A local pharmaceutical company that banked at Silicon Valley Bank feared it might be out hundreds of thousands of dollars, until banking regulators announced a plan Sunday night to strengthen the banking industry.
New HT logo: Harris Teeter rolled out a new logo and corporate slogan, “In Food with Love.”
Naming an I-485 interchange: The Charlotte City Council approved a resolution in support of naming the I-485/Weddington Road interchange after former Bissell Cos. CEO Ned Curran.
Financial adviser insights: Local financial advisers offer advice on what to do with your money in light of concerns over the U.S. banking industry.
Airport lounge changes: The City Council approved a design contract that could move the Charlotte airport’s American Airlines Admirals Club to the second floor and double its size, and Delta Air Lines is considering adding a club on Concourse A.
Lawsuit settled: American Airlines and travel site The Points Guy, which is owned by Indian Land-based Red Ventures, reached a settlement on a lawsuit.
Charity spotlight: The Charlotte nonprofit ANSWER Scholarship helps mothers pursuing higher education and has awarded more than $630,000 since 2006.
Tecia McAbee and Lynn Nicks were most than just sisters; they were best friends who supported each other through tough times. Tecia, 66, died Feb. 15 from leukemia.
Time to get tough: Charlotte FC lost its first three games of the season, and the most recent loss at home to Atlanta even elicited a few boos from the home crowd. It’s time for the team to show some grit.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project