“We don’t ever stop learning,” explains Dr. Dorothea French, professor emerita in Santa Clara University’s History Department and one of the founding members along with Psychology professor Patti Simone of SCU’s Osher program. SCU’s chapter is just one of the 119 nationwide OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) programs, a vibrant organization founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher and currently headquartered in San Francisco. SCU’s chapter, founded almost thirteen years ago, is made up of nearly 1200 local retirees ages 50 “and better” who enjoy taking classes, hearing from distinguished speakers, traveling, and learning about current events thanks to their involvement within the Santa Clara community. Classes for SCU’s Osher Institute are held both on campus and at The Villages Retirement community in San Jose to meet member needs.
Long-time Osher member Frank Barone agrees with French’s love of OLLI – “People need more social outlets after retirement. OLLI gives me the chance to discover all the things I’ve missed since college […and] learn more about what’s going on in the world.” Barone, a former executive in the semiconductor field, particularly enjoys the classes offered by Santa Clara University faculty. “My kids went to Santa Clara – they used to tell me some wonderful stories about their teachers. Now, I get to attend these same lectures,” Barone cited some of his favorite classes as ones well outside his major – he especially enjoyed a California history class, similar to one his own children attended. He added that Santa Clara professors really know how to keep the OLLI members interested. Barone, who volunteers as an advisor on OLLI finances for SCU hopes to continue building an endowment for the program. In 2008, for example, the Osher Foundation bestowed upon SCU a one-million dollar endowment to continue the expansion of OLLI on campus.
But the OLLI program is more than just a chance to attend college classes in a wide array of subjects without having to do any homework. French, for example, helped create a Curriculum Committee but is also proud of developing travel opportunities for OLLI members. She’s attended two international river cruises with OLLI – one down the Rhine and another down the Danube. The Danube River trip was also a music cruise so each stop involved a concert or private music event. “It was truly remarkable for me to visit [all these] Eastern European capitals again.” She was happy to see how well they’d fared since she had last visited some during Communist rule. French adds, “It was an exciting trip for me.”
Most importantly, Director Andrea Saade states the real heart of the organization – “we’re building a sense of community.” Her favorite part of OLLI is the members: “I see how learning keeps them active and I enjoy their interactions with the [undergraduate] students on campus.” While initially some newer members can be shy, Saade explains that they relish the chance to get out of the house and connect with people their own age. Unsurprisingly, French also estimates that a large number of the members are former teachers: “we’re a highly educated group – neurosurgeons, former NASA employees, and all of us are really enjoying expanding our knowledge.”
Registration for SCU’s OLLI chapter will be available during the upcoming Open House on Saturday, August 20th from 9-11 AM at the Locatelli Student Activity Center. Director Saade explains that the Open House is, essentially, “a preview of going back to school” for retirees. Since the organization begins each year anew with zero members, many members return to re-enroll. All of the programs available through OLLI will be on display, including Special Interest Groups, Curriculum Committees, and domestic / international travel opportunities – along with SCU-specific activities such as Bronco Athletics and SCU Presents. Barone perhaps summarizes best why people should be involved with OLLI: “We’re a stimulating, great organization!”
To learn more about the OLLI program, visit their website http://www.scu.edu/osher.