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OLLI: 35 Years of Lifelong Learning
Durham, NC - What began in 1977 as the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement with 42 people signing up for 11 courses to keep intellectually active in retirement is now a landmark of the Triangle. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a non-degree program of Duke Continuing Studies and Summer Session, is 35 years old this year.
From its small beginnings, the institute has grown to 1,600 members and more than 300 courses being offered yearly on the Duke campus, in Durham and in surrounding areas.
Jeane Bross learned about OLLI when she still led the provost's faculty affairs office. Now in her seventh year of retirement, she signs up for three or four courses each semester. One acting course helped her overcome her lifelong stage fright and allow her to give a public talk at a professional community service organization.
Bross plans to be back in OLLI classes this fall semester, taking advantage of interactive sessions that have accomplished scholars discussing big ideas on topics ranging from the future of libraries to how we can enhance personal and societal wellbeing. While most students are retirees, the classes are open to the entire community. Members can register now through the start of classes on Sept. 10.
"It's energizing to me," Bross said. "I feel buoyed by the classes, which are delightful. It's an easily affordable indulgence."
A member of OLLI's curriculum committee, Bross will be a course coach this fall, supporting students taking Rita Weimer's "NC LIVE: Reliable Internet Information at Home Through Your Library."
In 2010, CNN/Money chose Durham as the nationâs top retirement destination in part because of Duke's "stellar lifelong learning program."
Bross said OLLI serves as a community tent where community members can share ideas and their passion for learning, while hobnobbing with experts, authors, graduate students and peer teachers.
Duke retirees have been an important force within the OLLI at Duke community, both within the membership and among the instructors, according to Director Garry Crites.
"Many instructors are former professors who are able to continue research and teaching within their discipline, while others choose to teach topics that have always been their personal passions, but which are completely unrelated to the focus of their academic careers," Crites said.
In 2004, the institute affiliated with the Bernard Osher Foundation's network of university-based learning programs, later rebranding itself as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke. The Duke program is the seventh largest among the 117 member institutes in the OLLI network.
The fall 2012 slate of courses, among the largest in OLLI at Duke's history, includes programs on "Charles Darwin, Evolution and Culture Wars," "Criminal Investigation," "Shakespeare's Problematic Rulers" and "Why Capitalism?"
The annual OLLI opening convocation will mark this year's anniversary. Laurie Patton, dean of arts and sciences and Paula Gilbert, associate dean of Duke Continuing Studies and Summer Session, will represent Duke at the celebration.
The keynote speaker will be Kali Lightfoot, the executive director of the National Resource Center of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. Crites says Kali, a longtime supporter of OLLI at Duke, "knows as well as anyone the opportunities and challenges of lifelong learning in our culture, and even more so, within a university setting."
The 35th Anniversary Celebration, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9, will be held at the Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 West Cornwallis Road, Durham.