SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, Professor Peter Bolland, and Dean Joe Shapiro

SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, Professor Peter Bolland, and Dean Joe Shapiro

On Feb. 7, an enthusiastic group of more than 100 members, prospective members, instructors, and friends of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at SDSU assembled at the university’s Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center to celebrate the Institute’s 10th anniversary.

During the festivities, SDSU President Elliot Hirshman announced that OLLI at SDSU had received a $1 million endowment from The Bernard Osher Foundation.

“We are deeply grateful to Bernie Osher, Mary Bitterman and the entire staff of The Bernard Osher Foundation for their extremely generous support of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Diego State,” said Hirshman. “Through their endowment support, San Diego State will provide opportunities for lifelong learning and enrichment to members of our community in perpetuity.”

The Bernard Osher Foundation currently supports 119 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes on university and college campuses across the country, with at least one grantee in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“We are delighted to recognize the accomplishments of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Diego State University with this endowment gift,” said Bitterman, president of The Bernard Osher Foundation. “We applaud the Institute’s dedicated volunteers and staff — as well as the leadership of the University — for developing such an exceptional educational program.”

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at SDSU’s courses are offered through the College of Extended Studies (CES), and the Institute is operated by CES staff and supported by OLLI volunteers, including an advisory board and four committees.

In fall 2004, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at SDSU was established with the support of The Bernard Osher Foundation and six founding advisory board members. It has grown from offering seven courses to 16 members in its first semester to now providing 145 classes annually to nearly 700 members, with feedback and support from more than 20 member volunteers serving on the institute’s four committees and/or advisory board.

“Osher keeps students intellectually engaged and challenges us to keep growing and learning new things,” said Dee Quashnock, an OLLI member.

Many SDSU faculty and those from other universities are among the instructors, lecturing on a wide variety of subjects including history, theatre, world affairs, literature, political science, cultural studies, and creative arts.

During the 10-year anniversary celebration, three instructors were honored with awards, based on OLLI members’ nominations:

Peter Bolland (world religions and philosophy), Most Inspirational Presentations

Susan Cayleff (women’s studies), Most Intellectually Engaging Topics

Rebecca Romani (film and new media studies), Most Creative Visual Presentations

Students had many words of praise for all the instructors, and had this to say about the winners:

“Peter Bolland is the most enjoyable instructor I’ve had in my 68 years,” said student Gary E. Matthews.

“Susan is a wonderful teacher; very dynamic. She uses her life experiences to tell stories on the course topic and makes historical figures live,” said student Nan Moser.

“I think we’ve grown together as I share what I know and the students have been able to share what they know,” Cayleff said. “I look forward to seeing familiar faces and am very excited when I have new students in class.”

“Rebecca meticulously prepares creative power point presentations to visually engage her students and to introduce the themes, characters, plots and background information associated with the various genres of films she is teaching,” said OLLI Committee Member Barbara Stroud.

In addition to the instructor awards and volunteer recognition ceremony, members and prospective members had an opportunity to meet course instructors, learn about ways to get involved at the Institute, and view video highlights from the first decade of the OLLI at SDSU.

Advisory board member Eddie Baca was among those featured in the video, emphasizing the “commitment to excellence” he has witnessed at OLLI from the leadership to the participants to the professors. “At every level, I saw the people were genuinely interested in the success of the program and doing the best for the students,” he said.

“The Osher Institute has a virtual smorgasbord of educational offerings … a myriad of previously unexplored and surprisingly fascinating subjects. It’s also addictive,” said member Wayne Sander.

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