What started out as an idea and a $700 start-up grant is now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Boise State, a cherished program that recently received its second $1 million endowment from the Osher Foundation in the form of a personal gift from Bernard Osher.
What this gift enables is easy to see through the growing number of OLLI members, who at 50 years of age and better, have access to affordable, high-quality experiences in learning. The Osher Foundation also has supported Boise State scholarships for adult learners who are re-entering college.
For the lifelong learners, what the Osher Foundation enables is learning for the sake of learning via social engagement and intellectual stimulation. A recent New York Times report on Osher programs around the country cites medical research showing the impact of intellectual stimulation and social interaction on healthy minds, and correlations to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research supports this, and as the demand for learning increases, the institute works to expand its services.
The current programming offered by the institute at Boise State is both reflective —and worthy — of the kind of investment it takes to provide such offerings. Osher members enjoy a wide variety of high-quality programming including trips (last fall members traveled to Cuba as well as other locations), retreats focused on subjects like health and wellness, dozens of short courses on dozens of topics, lectures featuring internationally recognized expert speakers, and an array of rewarding events and volunteer opportunities.
In its evolution over a period of more than 13 years, the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning continues to grow and thrive. The Osher Foundation’s support goes back more than a decade with an initial investment of more than $400,000. Through robust annual fundraising, membership and program growth, the institute met strict benchmarks required for applicants to the Osher Foundation, and received its first $1 million endowed gift in 2010. Since then, membership has grown from 500 to 1,300 members, and the program offerings have grown to more than 100 educational activities per year.
The impact of the institute reaches deep into the community as the knowledge gained by lifelong learners is applied and put to use where Osher members live and serve in many capacities.
Thanks to philanthropist, Bernard Osher, seasoned learners in the Treasure Valley continue to benefit from his vision and generosity.
Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.