Classes Without Quizzes: 35th Alumni College Enthralls Grads

“The University’s top educators gave lectures on everything from fad diets to fine arts, from football to human rights, and from obesity to astronomy. It was a feast of mind-opening subjects presented to entertain and educate … a rare, enlightening, and intimate look at a great University.”

Betty Elliot Hanna, BJ ’42, sang these praises of the first annual Alumni College in a 1977 Alcalde story—and 35 years later, her words ring truer than ever.

More than 160 alumni returned to campus this week for four days of “Classes Without Quizzes,” as the event tagline goes. It’s all the best parts of college—dynamic faculty experts, dorm-room camaraderie, and yes, plenty of lively parties—without any of the stress.

Fifteen faculty speakers shared their cutting-edge research and life tips on topics like epidemiology, Southern food culture, the history of science, the Constitution, and opera.

Cognitive psychologist Art Markman shared tips on how to think more effectively. Markman peppered his talk with comic stories of his own forgetfulness—including a chronic difficulty remembering errands.

“If there’s one thing I want you to remember from this lecture, it’s how not to forget the milk,” he said. “Next time you have to go shopping after work, put the grocery bag in the car where you’ll see it. And choose a store that requires you to turn a different direction than if you were going home. Don’t do errands on the way home, do them first.”

Todd Humphreys, director of UT’s Radionavigation Lab, spoke about the wonders and dangers of advancing GPS technology. The crowd was so intrigued by his lecture, the question-and-answer portion lasted a lot longer than planned. Humphreys even commented, “You guys asked so many sophisticated questions! It’s great.”

Attendees of the debut 1977 Alumni College would be amazed to see how drastically technology has transformed the Forty Acres—and the world. Case in point: this year’s visit to the Texas Advanced Computing Center, where Director of Scientific Applications Karl Schulz astounded with tales of the center’s powerful supercomputers.

When Schulz held up a high-performance hard drive smaller than a brick and said, “Twenty years ago, this amount of data took up entire rooms. Today it fits on here,” the crowd gasped. After Schulz finished his lecture, a crowd of about 10 alumni gathered around him to continue the discussion before touring the center’s high-tech visualization lab.

This year’s Alumni College concludes tonight with a farewell dinner at the Alumni Center.

UT’s Executive Director of Housing & Food Service, Floyd Hoelting, speaks at 2011’s Alumni College. Photo by Armando Vera.


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