Osher Foundation Ups SOU’s OLLI Endowment to $2 Million

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco has awarded the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Southern Oregon University (SOU) an additional $1 million endowment. The news came to SOU President Mary Cullinan in a phone call from Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman.

“The Osher Foundation is so strongly supportive of OLLI,” says SOU President Mary Cullinan. “They recognize the truly outstanding work that OLLI and SOU are doing together. In providing $2 million to OLLI in the last three years, the Osher Foundation underscores the importance of lifelong learning and adult learners to our university and our southern Oregon communities.”

SOU’s Executive Director for Outreach and Engagement Jeanne Stallman adds, “Once on campus for OLLI classes, members frequently go on to participate in other parts of SOU campus life—one-credit classes, campus lectures and theatre and musical performances.”The Osher Foundation began funding OLLI at SOU in January 2007 with a series of grants. Then in March 2009 the Osher Foundation awarded the SOU OLLI program $1 million to establish an endowment. At the time, it was the largest cash gift the SOU Foundation had ever received.

“This award helps provide the infrastructure needed to maintain the high quality of OLLI membership amidst recent significant expansion,” adds OLLI President-elect Brad Inman. “Enrollment continues to grow, particularly among Rogue Valley residents residing in the greater Medford area. Now that over 50 of OLLI’s classes are available at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center there’s a much broader and more convenient offering for those living in Medford.”

OLLI at SOU has grown since its inception as Southern Oregon Learning in Retirement (SOLIR) in 1993, from 100 members in Ashland to almost 1,300 members taking classes at both SOU campuses in Ashland and Medford. Members take art, music, financial planning, investment, science, technology, political science, literature, history, health and other courses. OLLI is completely managed and operated by its members—they govern, plan, teach and take classes.

“We are grateful that the generous endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation will enable OLLI at SOU to maintain its longstanding tradition of delivering exceptional value,” says President of SOU’s OLLI Council, Lucy Strasburg. “OLLI members can select unlimited courses on wide-ranging topics from among 250 course offerings each year for a mere $100 annually.”

OLLI endowments are invested by the SOU Foundation and OLLI benefits from the earnings. The first endowment provided OLLI members with improved classroom facilities, upgraded audiovisual equipment, additional staff support and expanded parking. The second endowment assures the financial stability of OLLI at SOU, while it helps prepare for future growth and keeps membership fees low.

OLLI invites Rogue Valley adults to join and to continue to learn. The winter quarter starts January 3, 2012. For more information, visit www.sou.edu/olli or call Program Coordinator Sally Klein at 541-552-6048.


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