Current Past President of OLLI, Gil Nolde, welcomed everyone to the event. Nolde proudly announced the fundraising goal was already surpassed for fiscal year 2014. He also had the honor of introducing Bradley University President Joanne Glasser.
President Glasser welcomed the group to Bradley, joking that OLLI members were her best behaved students on campus. She then had the distinct pleasure of making a surprise announcement that The Bernard Osher Foundation had notified her that a second $1 million endowment had been awarded.
“It’s something to be proud of, to look back and reminisce about wonderful memories and things to look forward to,” said Bradley President Joanne Glasser. “I believe Bradley’s OLLI program is one of the best in the country, as evidenced by the $1 million endowment. It’s a testament here today because of the dedication, commitment and passion by you. It’s your program and the Hilltop is your home.”
Bradley President Joanne Glasser also commended OLLI for two decades of service to the community.
Carolyn Shepherd, Past President of OLLI, 2011-12, introduced Janet Lange, Executive Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development, who envisioned the adult education concept while working on her master’s degree in the early 1990s.
Janet Lange, keynote speaker for the event, gave a brief history of the organization (originally named the Institute for Learning in Retirement), launched in 1994 with the help of $10,000 in start-up funds. The inaugural year brought 84 people to 20 classes. This year, OLLI reached more than 400 people through 59 classes. OLLI has topped 1,000 members for two consecutive years, with 1,028 members currently participating in classes, study groups, learning trips, cinema and lectures.
The Institute for Learning in Retirement accepted a 2008 invitation to affiliate with San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation and changed its name to today’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The foundation supports a range of education and integrative medicine programs, including 117 adult education programs like Bradley.
Following program expansion with two $100,000 grants from the Osher Foundation, OLLI received a $1 million endowment in 2010. That funding, in addition to successful fundraisers, enabled OLLI to expand its offerings to special events, lectures and cinema.
Lange credited OLLI members for their interest and efforts to build the program. Mary Buesing, the most senior OLLI Past President, 1995-96, was asked to stand and be recognized as one of the earliest members who helped to develop Bradley’s own unique OLLI program.
“You the members are the heart and soul of the organization,” Lange said. “It’s your organization. It’s a true community of learners and you’re a part of that community.”
“So much has happened the past 20 years and it’s important to stop and celebrate,” Lange said.