The Bernard Osher Foundation has awarded a $1 million gift to Clemson University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a continuing education and membership program for older adults.
The gift — a $950,000 endowment gift and $50,000 in operating funds — is the foundation’s second $1 million gift to OLLI at Clemson and a recognition of the institute’s contributions to the local community, said OLLI Director Julie Vidotto.
OLLI at Clemson offers lectures, courses, excursions and social events to adults ages 50 and older, as well as access to Clemson events and resources. The institute holds approximately 215 classes each year in areas including technology, philosophy, history, fine arts, culture, travel, nature and fitness, among others.
“OLLI provides opportunities for mature adults to gain knowledge and expertise in a wide variety of academic and recreational pursuits, strengthening their quality of life,” Vidotto said.
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Such programs, she added, help inform a body of research on engaged aging, which increasingly demonstrates that continued learning, volunteer activities and extended communities add to increased independence and satisfaction among older adults.
“With state funding continually declining, private gifts are essential to the success of Clemson University today, tomorrow and forever,” said Brian O’Rourke, Clemson’s executive director of development and alumni relations.
“The Osher Foundation has shown its commitment to Clemson’s successful OLLI program. We look forward to watching this vibrant program become even more of a resource for this demographic of the Clemson family.”
“We are incredibly grateful to the Osher Foundation for this latest expression of support,” said Brett Wright, interim dean of the College of Health, Education and Human Development, which houses Clemson’s OLLI program. “This generous gift will expand our efforts to make a difference in the lives of older adults, and we are thankful for our continued partnership.”
OLLI at Clemson grew out of a grassroots effort led by local Clemson retirees 12 years ago and a $5,000 commitment from the College of Health, Education and Human Development. Since then, the program has grown to more than 1,000 active members and is now housed in the Charles K. Cheezem Education Center at Patrick Square in Clemson, the result of a generous gift from the Cheezem family.
The Osher Foundation made its first $1 million gift to the institute in 2008, and the foundation’s support of the Clemson-based program goes back to 2005. In recognition of that support, the name of the program was changed from Clemson University Lifelong Learning to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Clemson University.
The foundation’s newest endowment gift to OLLI at Clemson serves as one funding source for the self-supporting and member-led learning community, along with annual fees, tuition and other raised revenue, Vidotto said.
“We are appreciative of the Osher Foundation’s continued generosity to OLLI at Clemson,” said Fran McGuire, co-founder of the institute and interim chair of Clemson’s arks, recreation and tourism management department. “OLLI is an important component of Clemson University, and we are thankful that the Osher Foundation’s support will help us provide lifelong learners with the opportunity to participate fully in the Clemson experience.”