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WrightED Lecture Series

The wonders of colorado's glacial landscape wrighted
The WrightEd lecture series brings the community a chance to learn about various topics - ranging locally, regionally, nationally and into space!

Stay tuned...

...for future classes

Previous Courses

The Wonders of Colorado’s Glacial Landscape

Presented by Dr. Vince Matthews
Read about this class

Glaciers as much as a half mile thick and 50 miles long stamped their imprint on Colorado’s landscape 20,000 years ago. They carved our mountains into the rugged topography that leaves the viewer awe-struck and provides clues about their nature which you will learn how to decipher. Also lurking in the glacial landscape are periglacial features that are active today and result from the cold temperatures in the high mountains. These features decorate the landscape in weird and wonderful ways.

Ouray is in the heart of glacial country. The goal of this course is for you to be able to view its spectacular setting and surrounds with new eyes, appreciation, and understanding. And further, to enhance your travels around Colorado whether by vehicle, bike, boat, or foot.

Learn about the presenter

Dr. Vince Matthews is the author of Land of Ice: Jaunts into Colorado’s Glacial Landscape which will be published in 2024. He is also the author of the multiple, award-winning book Messages in Stone: Colorado’s Colorful Geology. Vince taught at five universities during his career and retired as the State Geologist of Colorado and Director of the Colorado Geological Survey.

Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau

Presented by Larry Meckel
Read about this class
The Colorado Plateau (due to geology and climate) provides a spectacular gallery for preserved rock art that spans approximately the last 3000 years. It is in fact the best location in the world for this time period. We will review how archaeologists have put this into a reasonable time-geographic context that spans 6 cultures. We will then look at the art by specific topics irrespective of age and culture. I will draw on indigenous peoples’ memories and experts’ opinions as to what the images might mean. Briefly at the end I will put this rock art into context with other great rock art around the world. It is one of the most important legacies that we have inherited from ancient cultures.

Get the Most from (and have way more fun with!) Your iPhone, iPad, and/or Mac

Presented by Maria Arapakis

Read about this class

In this 4-session course, you’ll discover amazing ways to make better use of your Apple tools & toys. It will have you ready and eager to bring into your life, with the help of these Apple devices, endless empowerment, enrichment, entertainment, education, and enjoyment.

Unfortunately much of the time these mind-blowing 21st century miracles are woefully misunderstood and pathetically underutilized. In this exciting course for our members, Maria Arapakis (from Denver OLLI), will show you a variety of easy ways to tap into their extraordinary powers—powers that can make your life a whole lot better. You’ll get a clear understanding of “The Cloud” and “Smart Streaming” where you can find and enjoy exceptional movies, shows, YouTube videos, digital books, podcasts and more—anywhere, anytime.

You’ll learn how your iPhone, iPad, and Mac can bring into your life gratifying new projects, a satisfying sense of purpose, and a super-simple self-management system.

And you’ll be shown how they can help you stay easily in close touch with friends, family, and colleagues using audio visits, video visits, texting, and Zoom get-togethers, where you can share files, photos, articles, links, learning, and laughs!

Learn about the presenter

Maria Arapakis is a psychologist, international trainer, and author with over 35 years of experience with “All Things Apple.” For the last 11 years in her retirement, she has been committed as an Apple Mentor to helping other seniors become more comfortable and adept at making better use of the astounding powers of today’s technologies.

Maria’s classes, both via Zoom and in-person, are fun, eye-opening, and highly motivating —even for those who feel a wee bit less than enthusiastic with the ever-changing landscape of 21st Century technology. You can find out lots more about her background, areas of expertise, and teaching style at

Epic Adventures in Four Continents

Presented by Kelvin Kent
Epic Adventures in Four Continents
Kelvin Kent draws on his extensive knowledge and personal involvement in exploration, human endeavor and endurance to highlight four aspects of expeditions in different settings around the world, in a five-part presentation.
Arctic and polar exploration
This class will cover earlier and later Arctic exploration, beginning with the incredible 300-year search for discovering a route through the icy North Sea Passage and subsequently, the international race to become the first person or teams to reach the North Pole and current situation for control of resources. With archival images and exposing some little-known history, we will uncover a lot of previously unreported feats of bravery and resilience. as well as the current effects of climate change and control of resources.
Antarctic and polar exploration
Antarctica is a continent in its own right and substantially different in size, scope, conditions and topography than the arctic regions. In this presentation we will trace the quest for the South Pole from the earliest attempts in the first decade of the 20th century, up to recent historic successes and the establishment of large permanent research stations and control of resources. With several film clips, emphasis will be placed on two of the most famous expeditions of all time; Robert Falcon Scott and Earnest Shackleton.
The Darien Gap
Even today, North and South America are not joined together by road. This is because of "El Tapon" or what the locals refer to as "The stopper" AKA the notorious Darien Gap which lies between southern Panama and northern Colombia. Kelvin was the deputy leader of a 65-person expedition in 1971/72 which set out to make the first-ever road journey from Alaska to Southern Chile, via the jungle infested and mountainous terrain of the Darien Gap. This presentation will mark the 50th anniversary of the successful expedition and will consist of a film that was made plus slides, history and personal anecdotes.
The Annapurna South Face Expedition of 1970
This epic climb took place in 1970 when it was considered to be the hardest unclimbed Himalayan route in the world. Its leader, Chris Bonington assembled the finest team possible, including American climbing legend Tom Frost. The summit participants were Don Whillans and Dougle Haston. Kelvin Kent was given time off from military duties in Hong Kong to take on the role of logistics, communications and Base Camp manager.
British Everest Southwest Face expedition of 1972
In 1972, the British attempted to climb the Southwest Face of Everest in the post monsoon season. It was known that in October the winds of Everest can make all climbing impossible but the expedition went ahead, using some of the Annapurna team (including Kelvin Kent) plus the addition of Doug Scott and others. The team had to trek for 17 days from Kathmandu to Everest in the monsoon before tackling the very steep part snow/part rock face- resulting in wind chill temperatures of nearly 100 below and two casualties.

Climate and Weather

Climate and Weather
The WrightED Winter Program focuses on an important and current topic of interest to all of us: “Climate and Weather”. We will address this from a number of perspectives, considering those many climate extremes (greenhouse and icehouse periods) in the Earth’s long history, the interplay of worldwide ocean and atmospheric currents on our weather patterns, plus our current concern with atmospheric carbon dioxide and what we are doing about it. We will conclude this semester with our interesting weather patterns right here in Ouray.
  • Climate Extremes in Earth’s History: Icehouse Periods presented by Larry Meckel & Greenhouse Periods presented by Steve Cumella

  • Currents, Coriolis, and Our Weather Patterns, Two Partspresented by Lynn Peyton

  • The Global Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric CO2: Past, Present, and Future, Two Parts presented by Tip Meckel

  • Ouray’s Complex Weather and Climate Patterns presented by Karen Risch

What's it Like to be an Astronaut

Presented by Joe Tanner
What's it like to be an astronaut

This three-lecture course is designed to describe what it is like to be an astronaut, from the selection process through the experience of flying in space to the physiological effects of spaceflight on the human body.

The first lecture will cover the astronaut selection process from historical and current perspectives. Application requirements were significantly different for the Mercury Seven astronauts than they are for the selection of Group 23 currently in progress.

The second half of the lecture will cover training for spaceflight. The type of training required has changed a great deal from the early orbital flights to now preparing to again set foot on the Moon. The second lecture will describe what it is like to fly in space. Joe will use pictures and videos to chronicle his experiences on four Space Shuttle missions and seven spacewalks. Details of the Hubble Space Telescope servicing and assembly of the International Space Station will be presented.

The final lecture will address the physical effects of spaceflight on the human body. It is not as easy as it appears. The lecture will conclude with what is currently happening in space and a best guess summary of future planned missions. Ample time will be provided in all lectures for questions.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dialogue with and ask questions of an astronaut!

Rocks from Space

Presented by Gary Curtiss
Rocks from space

This course summarizes our understanding of meteorites: where in space do they come from, how they were formed, their age and composition, the various types (classification), classic historic events and notable impact craters from around the world, how to identify them, where to collect them, and what they are worth. We’ll look at numerous images of the various types of meteorites and of impact sites as well as hand specimens from Gary’s personal collection.

Space Weather: Particles and Energy from Space

Presented by Larry Meckel
Space Weather: Particles and Energy from Space
The sun appears very stable and unchanging to us on a daily basis. But it is in reality unbelievably violent every second of the day. Those processes provide the light and heat that make life here possible. But they also emit a steady stream of energy (many wavelengths) and charged particles called solar wind. That solar wind travels 93 million miles and impact Earth constantly. All those dynamic processes on the sun, their products (particles and energy), and their ultimate impact on Earth are all referred to as our Space Weather. Fortunately we have very effective shields in place. This lecture will examine all those processes and the products for each step along the way. All these events are monitored every hour by telescopes both on Earth and on satellites and compiled into daily weather reports just like we have for our daily Ground Weather. We will also look at some of the very large events from the historic past and the major disruptions they produced. Life on Earth as we know it is very dependent on that delicate balance between what comes in and how effective our shields are. Were those shields ever ineffective in the past?

Geology of the Ouray Area as Viewed by Drone

Instructors: Mike Boruta and Steve Cumella
geology of the Ouray Area as Viewed by Drone
This two-part lecture series by Mike Boruta and Steve Cumella will explore the amazing geology of Ouray. Mike’s drone photography and videos will be used to look at features that make Ouray’s landscape so distinctive. Drones allow views and perspectives not possible by other means. We will take a drone’s eye view of some interesting geologic features in the Ouray area including dinosaur tracks, rock glaciers, volcanic deposits from the world’s largest volcanic eruptions, and faults that record the history of past mountain building episodes. Ouray’s spectacular scenery is the result of distinctive rock formations, mountain building episodes, and erosion by streams and glaciers.  Mike’s images help us see and understand geology’s important role in creating this beautiful landscape.

Narrow Gauge Railroading in the San Juan Triangle

Instructor: Don Paulson
Narrow Gauge Railroading
The four sessions will look in depth at five railroads that operated in Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel Counties: the Ouray Branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad which ran from Montrose down to Ouray, the Rio Grande Southern Railroad which ran from Ridgway to Durango, the Silverton Railroad which ran from Silverton north over Red Mountain pass down into the Ironton Valley, the Silverton Gladstone and Northerly that ran from Silverton north to Gladstone, and the Silverton Northern Railroad that ran east from Silverton to Animas Forks. The class will also look at the history of the Ridgway Railroad Museum and its half-mile loop railroad.

Understanding Eastern Religions with Western Minds

Instructor: Kelvin Kent

Understanding Eastern Religions with Western Minds

Three separate presentations, between 60 and 90 minutes each, depending on length of Q & A time.

Hinduism is widely regarded as the oldest, practiced religion in the world with over 1.2 billion adherents. This session will cover how Hinduism evolved, the origin of the caste system, the great Epics, deciphering the hierarchy of Gods, rituals, festivals and practices, plus their concepts of time and how the mind works, and how this religion impacts nearly every aspect of their daily lives. 

Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? Was Buddha a God or an ordinary mortal human being? We will examine what Buddha taught and what he sought to change in northwest India 2500 years ago. We will also look at how Buddhism split into its main sects and what the beliefs and teachings consist of, plus how and when Buddhism spread to many parts of the world and why it is so popular today, especially in Western countries. 

It is calculated that Islam will overtake Christianity in sheer numbers within approximately 50 years. How did Islam come about? Exactly who was Mohammed? Why was Islam able to move so rapidly across the Middle East and Asia? What was and still is, the impact of Islam on our world today - especially in the fields of science, astronomy, medicine and mathematics? Who are the Sunnis and Shias and how do their sects differ? Who are the bad guys? We will delve into all of these and much more, in an effort to understand the history, development and relevance of Islam today.

Maps That Changed the World

Instructor: Larry Meckel

Maps that changed the world

This online lecture course is designed to chronicle the most important milestones in the history of cartography. It will take us from prehistoric rock carvings to digital maps of outer space, a time span that will cover over 8000 years of human history.

Evolution of Life on Earth

Instructor: Larry Meckel

Evolution of Life on Earth

This continuing education course will look at the evolution of life on Earth over a 3 billion year period. Specifically, it will chronicle 28 major and exciting milestones in the development of life from those very first, one-celled bacteria to the emergence of man, a truly amazing journey. The concepts of origins, changes, and extinctions will be important and recurrent themes.

Some of the 28 interesting milestones we will consider are:

  • The change from single to complex cells
  • The start of vertebrates (the fish)
  • Emergence onto land (fins to feet)
  • Two huge breakthroughs: the seed (for plants) and the egg (for animals)
  • The origin of feathers and flight
  • Emergence of flowering plants
  • The first primates

The course ends by considering two intriguing aspects of life: (1) the “art of longevity”, namely a look at those species that survived through all the turmoil and continue to live today and (2) those organisms that live at the very extremes of temperature, pressure, and toxic conditions.

The Wright Opera House is a 501c3 nonprofit, operating a historic venue and premier performing arts organization located in the City of Ouray. It is supported by event fees and by generous donations. Click here to make a tax deductible donation to the Wright.