Dear ESI College Students:

Thank you for your patience!

What follows is a quick list of our July offerings over Zoom. You’ll find the full course descriptions below.

ESI College Online Classes for July 2020

  • Climate Action and Social Democracy: Lessons Learned from the Nordic Countries, with activists and educators Fran and Spence Putnam, Tuesday, July 14, from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
  • Our ever-popular Perennials Group, led by psychoanalyst Elise Blair, discusses the book Necessary Losses, by Judith Viorst, Wednesdays, July 15, 22 and 29, from 1:30-3 p.m. We ask that you only register for this course if you can attend all three sessions.
  • The Presidential Election of 2020: A Mid-Summer View, with Eric Davis, professor emeritus at Middlebury College, Thursday, July 16, from 11 a.m.-noon.
  • Two Leading Novels from Modern Japan, a book group led by Middlebury professor emeritus John Berninghausen, Fridays, July 17, 24 and 31, from 10-11:30 a.m. Again, we ask that you only register for this course if you can attend all three sessions.
  • 85 Years with the King: Elvis Presley, with musician and raconteur Robert Wyatt, Tuesday, July 21, from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
  • And, Looking at Modern Design, with teacher and author George H. Marcus, on Thursday, July 23, from 10:30-11:30 a.m.


To register use the course descriptions below to decide what classes you’d like to attend, and then please fill out this Google Form: ESICollegeJuly2020

(If you cannot fill out the form, please send an e-mail to listing the classes you wish to attend. I will e-mail you back to let you know what classes you’re signed up for.)

Because our book groups are limited in size, please don’t sign up unless you can attend all three sessions. Thank you for understanding.


The summer session will be at no cost (other than your purchasing books if needed) as we work out the details of our Zoom programming. We are very grateful to our volunteer instructors!

To Participate

What you’ll need to participate is a device (computer or tablet or smartphone) that you can use to Zoom, and Zoom set up on your computer. A device with a webcam is preferable so that people can see you. Once you register, we will e-mail you a link for your class. 

If you have questions about this or want to do a trial run, please e-mail us at and we can help you.

Book Groups

I have pre-ordered the books from The Vermont Book Shop. They give us a 15 percent discount and provide free delivery within the 05753 zip code! They can also ship them to you if you are not close. More details will follow in your confirmation e-mail.

We look forward to seeing you online!

Kind regards, 

Kristin Bolton
for ESI College Online

Course Descriptions for Online Classes, July 2020

Climate Action and Social Democracy: Lessons Learned from the Nordic Countries

Time: 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesday, July 14

Description: How are Scandinavia and Iceland confronting the challenges of climate change? Is there something about the culture or political structure that has put them at the forefront of efforts to reduce human impact on the climate? Local climate activists Fran and Spence Putnam set out on a five-week, self-designed study tour of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland for a first-hand look at their climate policies. 

Instructors: Fran and Spence Putnam are community activists committed to confronting the global climate crisis. Prior to retirement, Spence was involved in education and sustainable businesses and Fran had a career in early childhood education. They are currently active in the Weybridge Energy Committee, Interfaith Climate Action Network, Climate Economy Action Center and the Sunday Night Environmental Group at Middlebury College.

Perennials Group: Necessary Losses in Life

** Please sign up for this class only if you can attend all three sessions. **

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Dates: Wednesdays, July 15, 22 & 29
Book: Necessary Losses, by Judith Viorst Discount code: ESI15

Description: The subtitle of Judith Viorst’s book Necessary Losses is: “the loves, illusions, dependencies, and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow.” Students will use selections from this book as the background reading for our discussions. While we have used this book before, we will explore different aspects of it.

Instructor: Elise Blair trained and worked in the Netherlands as an industrial social worker. She became a psychoanalyst in Washington, D.C., and had a private practice for 30 years. She played a large role in the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis as a teacher, board member and president. She is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

The Presidential Election of 2020: A Mid-Summer View

Time: 11 a.m.-noon
Date: Thursday, July 16

Description: Professor Eric Davis will provide an overview of how the presidential campaign has developed so far, and what might happen leading up to Election Day in November.  Topics will include polarization in the electorate, Biden’s vice presidential choice, the effects of COVID-19 on election administration and turnout, Black Lives Matter and racial issues, Trump’s tweets, the economy and the election, and upcoming campaign debates. Professor Davis will incorporate your questions into his lecture; please submit them when you register for the course

Instructor: Eric Davis (B.A., Brown University; M.A., Ph.D. Stanford University) is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Middlebury College. From 1980 to 2008 he taught courses on American politics. Since retiring, he has continued to be a close observer of Vermont and national politics, writing a column for the Addison Independent and providing analysis for the local and national media.

Two Leading Novels from Modern Japan

** Please sign up for this class only if you can attend all three sessions. **

Time: 10:30 a.m.-noon
Dates: Tuesdays, July 17, 24 & 31

Books: (Snow Country)  (Kokoro)  Discount code: ESI15

Description: John Berninghausen has selected two outstanding Japanese novels, relatively short, written between 1912 and 1960, both superbly translated into English:  Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro [1914] and Snow Country [1948] by Yasunari Kawabata. He’ll provide a brief introduction to the historical and cultural background as well as lead discussion regarding how they are written and intriguing perspectives into modern Japanese life as penned by outstanding authors of three successive generations.

Instructor: After earning his Ph.D. at Stanford, Professor Emeritus of Chinese John Berninghausen established Middlebury’s Department of Chinese Language and Literature, and led popular seminars on Western and Asian literature. He is an avid reader and a world traveler.

85 Years with the King: Elvis Presley

Time: 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesday, July 21

Description: On September 9, 1956, more than 60 million people witnessed a young entertainer with gyrating hips and a honey-coated baritone voice croon his way into national consciousness on The Ed Sullivan Show. His rubbery legs spread wide apart, head thrown carelessly back and mouth twitching, it was apparent that this man was different. With an onstage persona that magnified unbridled sensuality and a versatile musical style which drew from rock and roll, gospel, blues, country and pop, Elvis Aaron Presley exuded charms that would make him the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music.

Instructor: Robert Wyatt is a Steinway Artist who has performed throughout the United States and internationally, gathering critical acclaim for sensitive and colorful solo and chamber music recitals. He delights audiences with a rare blend of pianistic savvy and engaging storytelling that makes each performance a creative event. Archival recordings, personal correspondence, documentary videos and colorful PowerPoint presentations accompany each session.

What Makes Modern Design Modern?

Time: 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Date: Thursday, July 23

Description: When modern design surfaced along with the birth of the machine age in the early 20th century, it brought a new concept of beauty (some might say ugliness) to our world. Office buildings, shops and restaurants, schools and town halls share this universal style, as do electronics, housewares, automobiles and almost everything else that is designed today. What are the characteristics that make design modern? How has modern design changed the way we view our surroundings? These are the questions we will explore in this illustrated talk.

Instructor: George H. Marcus teaches the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania and has written many books on architecture and design, including Introduction to Modern Design (2020) and The Houses of Louis Kahn (2013). For more than 30 years, he served as director of publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.