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Author brings excitement to Eckerd College

In the rarified air of Ph.D.s, M.D.s, authors, artists, musicians, former college presidents and ex-executives that make up the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC), there is an electric charge. The "current" is being charged by author James Michener, who has joined ASPEC and will assist with classes. The first move Michener and his wife, Mari, have made is to set up a table for four in the dining room at College Harbor, the condominium on the campus where the Micheners will live. The arrangement was made so they could eat with different people each evening.

"They didn't want to form a clique," said Dorothy Brown, assistant to ASPEC Director Art Peterson, adding that everyone was charmed by the gesture.

Leo Nussbaum, coordinator of the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) and ASPEC, wrote Michener to ask if he would speak to one of the college's PEL classes. Upon the author's arrival last Thursday, he immediately called Nussbaum and said he would gladly oblige. So attendance will be good at Susan Brown's creative writing class Wednesday night.

Again, the Eckerd community was charmed with the warmth and willingness of the man.

The Micheners also will have dinner Thursday with the 12 members of the ASPEC senate.

Other excitement at ASPEC was engendered Wednesday by Elderhostel visitors staying on campus for the week. Zee and Dr. Alan Bell, a retired Pan Am pilot and gynecologist of Boynton Beach, were enjoying their first Elderhostel experience. They were among 128 people attending the Opera Talk at Lewis House, as were Laura and Dr. Jerry Schur. Schur has taught biology, eduction, fine arts, science and communication at Hofstra University in New York. "But my most rewarding years were spent teaching at Stuyvesant High School in New York City." There, he said, he had two Nobel Prize winners among his students.

Upon his retirement, Schur came to Florida and began teaching as a volunteer at the Institute of New Dimensions at Palm Beach Community College. And what did he teach there?

Calligraphy. Such are the educational riches brought to Florida.

You read it first in "News and Views": When Marion Yarnall and Mabel Easton made their recent trip to the Soviet Union, they urged their guide to start a movement changing the name of Leningrad back to St. Petersburg, as it had been originally.

On Wednesday, the mayor of Leningrad, Anatoli Sobchak, a member of the Supreme Soviet and an architect of perestroika, will speak at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport at a 4:30 news conference. Sobchak is chairman of the law faculty at Leningrad University, which is in an exchange program with St. Petersburg Junior College.

Sobchak proposes to rename Leningrad St. Petersburg.

"He heard me!" says Mrs. Yarnall.

Baked goods, collectibles, jewelry, crafts, handmade clothing, plants, and a silent auction will be part of the Merrie Faire from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Peter's Cathedral, 140 Fourth St. N. There will be two lunch seatings, 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and you may call Cindy Campbell, 527-3431 for your $4 tickets.

At Peoples Gas System, Wednesday was hailed as "Otto Burnett Day." Employees, clad in Otto Burnett T-shirts, honored the 50-year employee at a surprise luncheon. Burnett has been with the company longer than any one else in its history.

And a really special surprise was the naming of the distribution auditorium in Burnett's honor.

When Burnett began his job in 1940, there was no natural gas in Florida. It was all made from coal at the gas plant, which is now the site of the Florida Suncoast Dome. Burnett's first job, at 10 cents an hour, was pumping water from gas lines. At 74, he still can remember the location of every pipeline and valve in the city. When trouble arose, employees were summoned by a whistle that could be heard everywhere, he says.

We might comment that this whistle also blew at noon every day, summoning everybody everywhere to lunch.

Burnett plans to retire at the end of this month, but will be called back during winter's busy season.