Osher Foundation Awards Second Endowment to UA Institute

The University of Arizona has received a $1 million endowment grant to advance the work of its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which provides lifelong learning opportunities to adults age 50 and older.

Since 2005, the Bernard Osher Foundation has provided more than $2.4 million in operating and endowment funds to support OLLI-UA. The program currently has more than 1,200 members and offers classes in Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Vail and Green Valley.

The Osher Foundation, the architect of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program, awarded the UA a second endowment based on OLLI-UA's excellence in curriculum and programming, which represents a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating, noncredit courses and educational activities. The foundation's award was given in recognition of OLLI-UA's significant opportunities for volunteer engagement and leadership, the strong support from the UA, sound organizational structure and financial stability, among other criteria.

The Bernard Osher Foundation supports 121 lifelong learning programs on university and college campuses across the country, with at least one grantee in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In a letter of support for OLLI-UA, UA President Robert C. Robbins, a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, reaffirmed the University's commitment to the program, stating, "As the president of an institution of higher education, I certainly appreciate the importance of fostering a culture of curiosity, interest and learning that continues long after graduation and throughout an individual's life.

"The UA's program has shown significant growth ... with four active OLLI-UA campuses …. The diversity of programming is extraordinary, the level of (volunteer) participation of boards, committees and work groups is significant, and the overall program is fiscally sound. This is in no small part, of course, due to the succession of endowments and bridge grants provided by the Osher Foundation."

The UA Foundation manages the Osher endowments for the program and coordinated this recent gift.

"Three UA staff members oversee the administration of the program with an army of 500-plus member-volunteers contributing in ways big and small to make the magic of OLLI-UA happen," states OLLI-UA's program manager, Scott Aldridge.

The program is representative of the UA's commitment to provide innovative and engaging learning experiences that transform the lives of individuals, organizations and communities.

"The OLLI-UA experience goes beyond providing quality, engaging classes and activities," said Meg Hovell, president of the OLLI-UA board of directors. "We have had members say OLLI-UA literally saved their life, keeping them engaged intellectually and active socially. OLLI-UA creates new circles of friends with similar interests and a passion for life and learning. Many times our program provides a welcome respite from personal issues like caring for a loved one or recovering from loss."

Last year, OLLI-UA provided more than 430 classes across its four campuses.

"Members love it because it is truly about the joy of learning, with no tests or grades," Hovell said.

The program also is an outlet for current and former UA staff, faculty and students to engage with the community, often leading programming in their fields of expertise.

"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 and talent," said Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman. "We applaud, too, the University's leadership for its 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."


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