OLLI program serves hundreds of older students in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at West Virginia University (OLLI at WVU) has received a $1 million endowment that will help to enrich the educational programs it offers to people age 50 and older. The endowment is from The Bernard Osher Foundation, a 34-year old philanthropic organization that supports higher education and the arts.

OLLI at WVU conducted a drive last year to recruit more than 500 members, one of the criteria for the endowment from the Osher Foundation.

“People come to OLLI because they have a love of learning,” Suzanne Gross, president of the OLLI Board of Directors, said. “The students have bright minds and want to keep them engaged through retirement. Our teachers have a lifetime of expertise. Bring them all together and it makes for a very rich classroom experience.”  

About 40 active and retired WVU faculty members have supported OLLI by teaching classes.  Instructors also include state and local experts in public programs, business professionals and artists. Classes for Spring 2011 run the gamut from Basic Computer Skills and Basic Italian to T’ai Chi, Opera and Ibsen.

Gross said OLLI at WVU gives people a chance to explore topics they didn't have time to tackle in their working lives – with no tests, no grades, no pressure. “It’s learning for pleasure,” she said.

”The progress the program has made since receiving initial support in December 2006 has been outstanding,” said Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman.  “We salute the Institute’s dedicated volunteers and staff — as well as the leadership of West Virginia University — for developing such an exceptional educational program for seasoned adults in the Morgantown area.”

Gross said previous support from the Osher Foundation has helped to build the program over the last several years.  The endowment, she said, will help to sustain OLLI at WVU into the future.

“We are also very grateful for the support we’ve received from University President (James) Clements,” Gross said. “He feels very strongly that the University has a responsibility to the community and has committed support that allows us to occupy our space here in Morgantown and offer unlimited classes at no additional charge to our members.”

Annual memberships are $85 for anyone 50 and older. Memberships can also be purchased for an individual season term for $45. There is no limit on the number of courses an individual can take. Dues, along with gifts, grants and investment interest cover the costs of the courses, office expenses and teaching materials.

OLLI at WVU, founded in 1993, is part of the Center on Aging at WVU Health Sciences.  Its classrooms are at the Mountaineer Mall on Greenbag Road in Morgantown. For more information on OLLI, see www.olliatwvu.org or call 304-293-1793.

About the Osher Foundation

The Bernard Osher Foundation was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected businessman and community leader.  The Foundation provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation, with special attention to reentry students. It also benefits programs in integrative medicine in the United States and Sweden, including centers at the University of California, San Francisco; Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston; and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.  In addition, the Foundation supports a national network of personal enrichment educational programs for seasoned adults, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, which now operate on the campuses of 117 institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawaii.  Finally, an array of performing arts organizations, museums, and selected educational programs in Northern California and in Mr. Osher’s native state of Maine receive Foundation grants. The Foundation is chaired by the Honorable Barbro Osher, Consul General of Sweden in California. (www.osherfoundation.org)

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
alj: 04-26-11