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Learn More About What Makes This World Tick

October 27, 2016

Gary Midkiff inspires lively discussions about history, politics, and policy
By Jan Klingberg

From the labor union movement to the civil rights struggle. From the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War. From the earliest social challenges of the U.S. to our current international relationships. Gary Midkiff regularly makes history and politics come alive in Lifelong Learning classes and discussions at North Shore Senior Center.

Just take a look at some of his courses and I dare you to say you’re not intrigued!
“Overlooked American Women”
“The Bill of Rights”
“The History and Future of Afghanistan”

Armed with an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Gary spent the bulk of his career performing international strategy consulting for Fortune 200 companies. He also had his own company and then decided to focus on teaching—“Consulting actually is teaching”—without the international travel. Gary transitioned over a period of time to teaching history, politics, and foreign policy. The range of folks in his classes is broad—gifted high school students, MBA students, community college students, and retired adults.

The mainstay of Gary’s teaching at the Center is his Great Decisions discussion group. Great Decisions is a nationwide world affairs discussion program of the Foreign Policy Association. Gary facilitates 20 such groups in the Chicago suburbs and stays energized in this endeavor not only because it aligns so well with his interests but also because of the variety of individuals he encounters. The year-round group at the Center follows the plan and material provided by the Foreign Policy Association for the first half of the year, and then for the next six months, Gary conducts a foreign policy roundtable with topics he selects and readings he provides in advance.

Gary’s 60- and 90-minute classes also are a study in diversity of thought: “Every day, every presentation can be different. I might cover the same presentation eight times in a year, but every audience is different. Participants pick up on different points and ideas, commenting and asking questions from their own perspectives. This adds interest to the discussions, and makes me more knowledgeable,” Gary shared. The participants in his classes and discussion groups at the Center also bring their own viewpoints, of course, and are among the individuals who become highly engaged in his topics. “They come because they really want to learn. They are knowledgeable and well-read so ask really insightful questions,” he commented.

Lest you think Gary’s life totally revolves around history, politics, and foreign policy, we should also add that Gary has a chef’s diploma from the Rhode School of Cuisine in France. No, he doesn’t cook during his classes nor does he share culinary secrets, but catch him after class and he might offer a tidbit or two about his gastronomic hobby!