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OLLI Celebrates Anniversary, Endowment Award

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) celebrated its 25th anniversary at Florida State University with some very welcome news from the foundation that helps support it. The Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco announced in May that the institute was one of a select few among the 119 OLLIs throughout the country to be recognized for excellence with a $1 million endowment.

The highly competitive award required meeting stringent criteria, including membership of more than 1,000, curriculum, leadership, staff excellence, sustainability and volunteerism.

"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.”

OLLI at FSU is a program of classes targeted to mature adults who want to learn in a stress-free environment where there are no tests and no homework – just to learn for fun and personal enrichment. Classes are taught by current and retired FSU faculty, graduate students, and faculty from Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. The program is associated with the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy within the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy.

In addition to academic classes, OLLI members can take advantage of the institute’s ongoing Noon Lecture Series and the college’s Broad International Lecture Series, both of which feature well-known and informed speakers on a wide array of topics. Member benefits also include field trips to fascinating locations and events, an art and culture group, book clubs, travel and international clubs, Spanish and French clubs, a walking club, and a writer’s group. The program has been recognized by the Florida Legislature for “engaging older Floridians and enriching lives.”

Florida State’s lifelong learning has not always been called OLLI. In 1991, seven individuals got together to establish a program, which was then only two classes. The program became part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute network in 2008. Over the years it has grown to about 1,300 members and more than 100 classes and programs.

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.

According to OLLI FSU Director Debra Herman, the endowment will help underwrite the institute’s goals of expanding course offerings, lecture series, and other activities and to maintain affordable membership fees and tuition rates.

OLLI's anniversary celebration continues with a reception at the home of FSU President John Thrasher in June and a gala in October.