KU Osher Institute thriving in Lawrence community


LAWRENCE –  KU Continuing Education started the Osher Institute for Kansas in 2004.

“It was fortunate for KU and for Continuing Education that the Bernard Osher Foundation in San Francisco chose to establish an Institute at KU, along with financial support to get it started. It has since become a vital component of KU’s outreach to the community, the state and alumni,” says Fred Pawlicki, executive director of KU Continuing Education.

Art historian and Osher instructor Ann Wiklund explains a Thomas Hart Benton painting at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.KU Osher has grown from approximately 200 members in 2004 to nearly 1,200 just six years later. With the thriving OLLI in place, KU is set to serve a growing population. The silver tsunami is upon us. According to the Pew Research Center, during the next 19 years, about 10,000 people will turn 65 each day. By 2030, 18 percent of the nation’s population will be over the age of 65, compared with 13 percent now.

Courses are offered in 12 locations in Lawrence, Topeka and the greater Kansas City area. The Institute is also expanding across Kansas — for instance, Hutchinson (partnering with Hutchinson Community College), Manhattan (partnering with Kansas State University) and as far west as Ulysses. Statewide, around 20 percent of KU Osher members are KU alumni.

OLLI courses run the gamut from history and science to music, philosophy and literature and are normally taught in three two-hour sessions over three consecutive weeks. Courses are taught simply for the joy of learning, with no reading, homework or tests required.

 Instructors are chosen not only for their academic qualifications but because they exhibit a passion for the topic, a love of teaching and the ability to spark enjoyable discussion. While instructors are paid, many KU professors choose to donate their time. Osher also makes full use of assets within the University, such as the Spencer Museum and the KU theater department, to enhance the Osher experience.

KU Osher offers the opportunity for community seniors to connect with the University in a meaningful way. In OLLI classes, participants learn with their peers, have the opportunity to contribute their own knowledge and insights, and interact with many of KU’s top professors in a relaxed atmosphere. Furthermore, a vibrant OLLI in this community is an important draw to bring seniors to Lawrence, which has been named a “Best Place to Retire” by U.S. News and World Report.

Osher also is the recipient of gifts that keep on giving. Many dedicated Friends of Osher, the Institute’s financial supporters, regularly donate money to keep the program growing and tuition costs low ($40 per course, with substantial discounts for multiple courses). One dedicated “Friend” gave a gift of $5,000 to help bring the Institute to rural communities in western Kansas. Some KU staffers give regular gifts through KU Endowment via payroll deductions.

These financial gifts, along with other valuable contributions from members, instructors and specialists at KU Continuing Education, help make KU Osher an ideal place for area seniors to experience the joy of learning.

Consider this sampling of course titles for spring 2012:

  • Globalization: America’s Evolving Role in the World of Today and Tomorrow
  • The Splendor of Islamic Art and Architecture
  • The Berlin Wall: Symbol of a City Divided
  • The History of Nanotechnology: from Medieval Stained Glass to Microscopic Robots
  • Explaining the Perplexing Thomas Jefferson
  • Bugs R Us, with Elizabeth Wenske-Mullinax of KU Medical Center introducing students to microorganisms necessary for health and well-being.
  • Real to Reel: How History is Portrayed on the Silver Screen
  • NASA: An Insider’s Perspective, taught by Eileen Hawley, wife of astronaut Steven Hawley and herself the former “voice of NASA.”

For more information about KU Osher or to request a course catalog, visit www.osher.ku.edu or call toll-free at 877-404-5823.