by Ed Wisneski, Yavapai College Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
“Curiosity is what separates us from the cabbages,” said two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. “It’s accelerative. The more we know, the more we want to know.”
About 2,000 insatiably inquisitive adults in Yavapai County have found a resource for their curiosity, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Yavapai College. Its mission is to provide lifelong learning and social interaction opportunities on the Prescott campus and through sister programs in Sedona and Cottonwood.
Talent, experience and skills are shaped in a relaxed environment to explore new interests, discover latent abilities, engage in intellectual and cultural pursuits, and contribute to a rapidly changing multicultural and multigenerational society.
OLLI was founded in 1993 by a group of people who wanted to see educational offerings that met the needs of retirees shorter than the typical 15-week semesters and without the time commitment of homework, papers, and tests. Supported by grants from the Bernard Osher Foundation, OLLI has grown to include programs at 120 colleges in all 50 states, including Arizona State and the University of Arizona. The Yavapai College OLLI is one of the most successful in the nation with a $2 million endowment, extremely diverse curriculum, robust membership and affordability.
Whether it’s mastering watercolors, demystifying smartphones, disentangling viewpoints or unraveling your life memories to write your memoir, OLLI annually offers an intriguing cornucopia of 300 courses and workshops during five six-week sessions. Most meet once per week for two hours.
OLLI also organizes social events and trips to Phoenix concerts, museums, and theater for hits such as “Beautiful,” “The Color Purple,” “Les Miserables” and “Hamilton” at the ASU Gammage auditorium, via luxury coach and meal.
Bonnie Manko was two years from retirement when she heard of the OLLI program and knew it was something she’d weave into her schedule at retirement. Those two years passed, and two weeks prior to her retirement, with the approval of her employer, Bonnie began taking classes at OLLI.
OLLI maintains extremely low costs because it’s a peer-to-peer organization where members volunteer for every aspect of running the program, including facilitating all classes. Options include a $10 Try Me membership, plus a $30 fee for each class for the first-time member.
Some facilitators are former teachers or college professors with doctorates. Others are published authors. Quite a few have experience and a professional background in their subjects.
Chris Maxwell and husband Bill have been facilitating classes for years as well as enjoying classes themselves. Chris has facilitated a TED Talks class for several years and Bill has facilitated a travel class that incorporates his exquisite photos.
Kelly Boryca, a longtime volunteer for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), helps OLLI members navigate the complexities of Medicare. Raymond Lee, a former judge in the Superior Court of Maricopa County, gave a one-day session, “Arizona Courts — You Be the Judge,” that filled a Yavapai College auditorium.
“If you want to keep learning, find kindred spirits, have fun and wake up in the morning and look forward to the day, then OLLI is for you.” Lee said.
For further information call 928-717-7834 or visit yc.edu/prescottolli.