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Forum Oakmont: 05/15/2011

Forum Oakmont

Oakmont goes live: Dutch Lichliter’s vision

If you went to church on Sunday mornings, or wanted to read the weekend edition of your newspaper, you would have missed one of Oakmont’s premier events, the weekly Sunday Symposium, featuring speakers who cover a wide range of topics from anthropology to politics and history to religion. In case you noticed the past tense, it is to indicate that today you can access the lectures at any time on your computer.

It all began in 2008 when the Symposium made the leap into the world of virtual reality, by videotaping the talks, and offering them, through a newly created website, to anyone, anywhere and at any time. The creative mind behind this accomplishment was a self-taught computer enthusiast, Dutch Lichliter, member and past president of the Symposium Board.

Three years ago, he started out with a small audio tape recorder, which was swiftly replaced by a video camera, and the construction of a website. Producing the weekly edited video is time intensive. It involves downloading, to his very powerful computer, the content from three video sources, plus a separate audio track, synchronizing them, then painstakingly editing the final video to be uploaded to the Symposium website. He also burns DVDs for the speaker and places several in the Oakmont library.

Not content with video recording alone, Dutch recently advanced to the next step, namely the dissemination of the talks via live stream over the Internet. Broadcasting in real time generated such a response in our village that he and Gary Pickering were asked to videotape the recent OVA Board Candidates’ night at the Berger Center. It was to be a resounding success, with 5,000 hits on the Symposium website,

While the technical challenges are of great interest to Dutch, there exists a deeper wish, namely to make the Symposium talks available to a much broader audience beyond Oakmont. He models his vision after the TED conferences ( that unite leaders from the world of business, science, the arts and culture, and whose motto is: “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Dutch’s slogan for the Symposium videos is “Programs Worth Sharing.”

Dutch recognizes that his dream of attracting prominent guests and gaining thousands of viewers is ambitious, but he is equally convinced that the Oakmont Symposium is an ideal forum to become a version of the TED conferences, albeit on a smaller scale.

His marketing plan is to make use of both print media and social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. He engages the speakers to encourage their friends and friends of friends to tune in to on Sunday mornings at 10.30 a.m. to watch the program. Dutch believes that streaming live will attract lecturers of name and rank, who are more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences with a wide online audience, and he is convinced that the Sunday talks, broadcast live, promote Oakmont to the outside world as a desirable, vibrant and progressive community.

Dutch Lichliter and his charming wife Lois moved to Oakmont in 2007. They met decades ago at Penn State, where Dutch earned his degree in civil engineering. Soon after graduation from college, he was drafted into the army, and sent, after basic training, to the Presidio in San Francisco.

Returning to civilian life, Dutch and his little family established themselves in Sacramento, where he worked for various engineering firms, handling demanding jobs that sent him all over Northern California.

In 1972, realizing the potential to open his own engineering consulting practice in booming Texas, Dutch, with his wife and two children, settled in Houston. He began the new office with Lois as office manager, and a part time assistant. His acquired marketing skills, however, served him well. Dutch vigorously promoted his small company and gradually built a strong base of clients. He brought in partners, and over the next 20 years the firm grew to a total staff of 200 with five offices.

When a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company made an offer that could not be refused, the business was sold. Dutch retired at the age of 58, and the Lichliters left Texas. They took up residence in Incline Village, Nevada, and commuted in their private airplane to their winter home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Serendipitously, four years ago, they discovered Oakmont, close to their daughter and son and grandchildren, and decided to make our village their final destination after a long, circuitous, and adventurous journey from Pennsylvania to California.

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