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Teaching History with a Passion-Mary Lasher

By David Langdon

Mary Lasher got turned on to history in the final years of high school. She originally was heading for a degree in journalism; but after an advanced class in history by an enthusiastic teacher, she changed her direction to history. Lasher attended Duke University where she earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in History.

After teaching high school students for several years, her family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, which at that time was the engineering center for NASA. Mary has long thought engineering and technology are key factors in our country’s greatness and she relished teaching at the University of Alabama/Huntsville where engineers appreciated history. Although her early interests were American and European history, she came to know through reading and travel the historical importance of the non-Western world. An avid and critical reader, she takes scholarship seriously and cautions that many writers today can be casual about the subject and the rigorous standards required for writing history.

Before retiring, Mary lived in Greenville, South Carolina, where in her work for the school district she established a program for gifted students and wrote grants. She also enjoyed teaching graduate courses in history at Furman University over two decades as an adjunct instructor. Upon retiring Mary was persuaded by her partner, Tom Sanders, to move to Asheville and teach at what was then North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at UNCA. Lasher has taught, team taught or coordinated 42 courses for College for Seniors at OLLI at UNC Asheville. She spends a great deal of time developing history coursework for college and will work on a specific class idea for months and years before putting together an exact course curriculum.

Deciding to do things a bit differently in the new era of her life, Mary built a round house on the side of a mountain. Mary quips she was tired of living in a rectangular house with four walls and right angle corners. During holidays and summers she keeps busy with her two sons and their families that include grandsons ranging from age four to 16. In Asheville she delights in hanging out with friends, engaging in her film and book clubs, working out, and tending her cherished oriental lilies. Mary is a past president of Asheville Sister Cities and Asheville’s branch of American Association of University Women.

Mary Lasher is among the most colorful history instructors in the College for Seniors at OLLI. She appreciates humor and satire of people like Jonathan Swift and Stephen Colbert. Her classes are strengthened by her diligence and discipline and by her travels to unusual destinations such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey. Her greatest travel memories are to Africa’s game country, an area she would like to visit again. Those of you in her spring class, “The Rise of the West,” are already enjoying the benefits of having Mary Lasher on the teaching staff at the College for Seniors.

Contact Information

Reuter Center CPO #5000
One University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804-8511
Office: 828.251.6140
Email:  olli@unca.edu