OLLI receives $1 million endowment to enhance lifelong learning program

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Florida State University has been recognized for its excellence with a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco.

The highly competitive award, attained only by the elite institutions of the 119 OLLIs throughout the country, required meeting stringent criteria, including membership of more than 1,000, curriculum, leadership, staff excellence, sustainability and volunteerism.

”Florida State University is proud of our commitment to lifelong learning and the 1,300 OLLI students who are such an integral element of our campus as learners, supporters and volunteers,” said FSU President John Thrasher. “My wife, Jean, and I have just become OLLI members ourselves, and we are looking forward to the intriguing classes and activities that OLLI offers.”

With more than 1,300 members, OLLI at FSU annually offers an exciting, challenging, scholarly program of more than 100 classes and programs tailored for mature adults who love to learn.

“We recognize that the program’s success represents the collective achievement of its excellent staff and dynamic community of intellectually vigorous members, who give generously of their time, talent and financial resources,” said Mary Bitterman, president of the Osher Foundation. “We applaud the university’s leadership for its steadfast support of the Institute and for embracing the notion that — at its best — education is a lifelong pursuit that has the power to elevate, delight and forge our connection to one another and to a larger world.”

“We are most grateful for the Osher Foundation award and Florida State University’s ongoing support of lifelong learning,” said OLLI Director Debra Herman. The Osher endowment will be used to support and sustain OLLI at FSU in the years to come. It will help underwrite our ambitious plans to expand course offerings, lecture series and other activities and to maintain affordable membership fees and tuition rates.”

Florida State University has sponsored a lifelong learning initiative since 1991, when seven eager students assembled to establish and participate in two classes. Growth since that time has been exponential, and 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of lifelong learning at the university. The organization is celebrating this landmark throughout the year, with special events, lectures and classes. NPR commentator on aging Ina Jaffe will be a special 25th anniversary presenter at a community event Sept. 19.

Carroll Bewley, 2016-2017 OLLI member president, said, “The timing of this endowment award could not have been better — during the 25th anniversary of lifelong learning at FSU — and it will make the celebration even sweeter. The award recognizes the quality program we’ve been able to create here through the dedication and hard work of a lot of people. It has been a true team effort.”

The program became part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute network in 2008. This is OLLI at FSU’s second million-dollar endowment from the Osher Foundation. The first was granted in 2012, based on membership growth to 500 and related criteria.

Over the past 25 years, OLLI members have participated in hundreds of classes offered by current and retired FSU faculty members, as well as many graduate students.

FSU faculty-taught classes during OLLI’s three-week “Maymester” include: history Professor Emeritus Jim Jones, cinema series: “Submarines and World War II”; English Professor Maxine Montgomery, “Talking Back to Pecola: Rereading Toni Morrison”; jazz studies Professor Leon Anderson, “The Evolution of the Rhythm Section in Jazz”; and communication science and disorders Professor Erin Ingvalson, “Healthy Cognitive Aging.”

OLLI faculty also come from Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College and include experts in a wide variety of fields.

For more information about OLLI at FSU, visit olli.fsu.edu.