WMU becomes part of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute network

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of adult students in a classroom.

Students attend a lifelong learning class.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Bernard Osher Foundation has selected Western Michigan University to become the newest member of the celebrated national network of lifelong learning programs it supports.

WMU's Academy of Lifelong Learning, which has been offering classes for older adults in southwest Michigan since 2011, is now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Western Michigan University. The agreement, effective April 1, comes with an operating grant of $100,000 from the foundation to WMU. Once the institute demonstrates success and potential for sustainability, the Osher Foundation will consider awarding an endowment of $1 million to provide permanent support for WMU’s lifelong learning initiative, which is administered by Extended University Programs.

"We're enormously pleased about this relationship with Osher, which is the nation's premier name in lifelong learning," says Dr. John M. Dunn, president of WMU. "The addition of resources and the opportunity to be part of the Osher network will result in even broader success for our program that is already enthusiastically received by the citizens of the communities we serve."

WMU's program will join Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at 117 other colleges and universities in locations that range from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska. The San Francisco-based Osher Foundation began its financial support for such programs in 2001.

Committed to lifelong learners

"Osher invited us to submit a proposal after learning about our existing program," says Dr. Dawn M. Gaymer, associate provost for Extended University Programs. "EUP staff and Academy of Lifelong Learning volunteers worked closely to document our rapid growth in memberships and program offerings and to clearly lay out all the ways that our academy was innately aligned with the many wonderful aspects of lifelong learning that the Osher Foundation espouses. We're very proud of the unique working relationship forged between dedicated OLLI volunteers and WMU staff. I think it speaks volumes about WMU's commitment to this growing segment of lifelong learners."

Gaymer says the opportunity to become an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is really a validation of the quality of WMU's lifelong learning program. The Osher support, she notes, will provide tangible enhancements to WMU offerings in the coming months and years.

"It's very rewarding to see the success of our hard-working volunteers and employees recognized by the foundation," says Gaymer. "We look forward to growing our relationship with the Osher Foundation and the network of lifelong learning programs it supports. With these additional resources, we will increase our course and trip offerings, maintain the high-quality programming that our constituents have come to expect, and learn additional ways to make our OLLI more robust and self-sustaining for years to come."

About the Osher Foundation

The Osher Foundation was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected financial-sector businessman, community leader and philanthropist. The foundation's goal is to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. The lifelong learning programs it supports can be found in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The foundation also supports a National Resource Center for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, which is located at the University of Southern Maine—the site of the foundation's first OLLI endowment grant.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Western Michigan University

WMU's existing lifelong learning program was launched in 2011, after two years of planning by emeriti faculty members. The membership-driven program features academically oriented, enriched learning courses and trips designed for people age 50 and above. Courses are taught in one- to eight-week timeframes and all are offered in person rather than online. The program is delivered by an all-volunteer organizational structure working with administrative oversight and support from WMU's Extended University Programs.

For more information, including a schedule of current offerings, visit wmich.edu/olli.