Claire McGurn

LLI Spotlight:  Rosemary Reinhardt, Executive Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho

By Peter Spiers

Background:  The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Boise State University was founded 15 years ago by a small group of curious intellectuals committed to establishing a learning organization like those they’d seen at their alma maters back East and elsewhere.  The organization, originally called the Renaissance Institute, began with the support of then dean of the Division of Extended Studies Joyce Harvey Morgan. Classes were initially held in living rooms, theaters and anywhere else space could be found until dedicated space on campus could be arranged. In 2006 the Institute received its first grant from the Osher Foundation and became an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  Since then it has received two $1 million endowments that have been instrumental in its growth. The OLLI is now home to over 1,400 members, drawn from retired university faculty and staff, alumni, longtime community residents, and retirees drawn to Boise’s growing stature as a desirable retirement destination.  Volunteers play a big part in the organization, providing council to the executive director through a 15-member advisory board, and serving on four subject-specific curriculum committees and other committees.  Members pay $70 for a full-year or $35 for a half-year membership which includes attendance at all lectures for no additional cost, a parking pass, and attendance at two seasonal events, but does not include short courses or special trips, for which varying fees apply.  Executive Director Rosemary Reinhardt directs an office that includes three other paid staff—a coordinator and an administrative assistant—and a part-time student office assistant.

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 LLI Spotlight:  Katie Compton, Director, Lifelong Learning Institute, Washington University in St. Louis

By Peter Spiers

The Lifelong Learning Institute at Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1995 by a remarkable and dedicated group inspired by the LLI at Northwestern University and dedicated to the idea of peer learning.  With the strong backing of Mark Wrighton, the newly-appointed Washington University chancellor, the program began with three classes and about 20 participants and within five years, according to Director Katie Compton, was “cooking with gas.”  In 2002 the university granted the LLI dedicated classroom space in a campus building with adjacent covered parking, another spur to growth.  Today the LLI boasts 1,400 members, including 900 active in 2016-17.  Some members choose to pay an annual membership fee of $665, entitling them to enroll in three classes every semester, while others pay “a la carte.”  (More limited membership options are also available.)  The LLI’s calendar includes eight-week semesters in the fall, winter and spring, and a four-week summer semester; all classes have an academic focus and the majority of classes adhere to the founders’ vision of peer learning.  Under the wing of the university’s professional and continuing education division, the LLI is managed by Compton with the support of volunteers organized into an executive committee and other functional committees.  Perhaps the busiest group is the curriculum committee, comprising chairs of nine subject-specific subcommittees, which is constantly working to create new courses and mentor new facilitators.

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LLI Spotlight:  Sarah Anderson, Director, OLLI at Penn State, University Park

By Peter Spiers

The Community Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) at The Pennsylvania State University was founded in 1996 after the University’s College of Health and Human Development received a small grant to benefit the education of older people in the community. The college’s dean asked staff members to study ways the grantor’s purpose might be implemented, and they learned about the Lifelong Learning Institute movement. Coincidentally, the director of Continuing Education was exploring the potential for bringing a Lifelong Learning Institute to Penn State, and out of these parallel efforts a task force came together that included local retirees with university connections.

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