After exceeding 600 members this year the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Texas received a $1 million endowment from The Bernard Osher Foundation.
The endowment will allow the institute to be self-sustaining, Director Stephanie Reinke said.
“Right now we’re receiving a lot of financial support from the office of the [UNT] president, and we’re trying to wean off of that support and be able to become more financially sustainable independently,” she said.
OLLI at UNT is a program for adults ages 50 and older that offers noncredit courses in a variety of topics, including history, art and science. The program also offers trips and events for members.
Reinke, who became the director last year, had a goal this year to exceed 500 members, which is one of the criteria for being eligible for the endowment.
“Our membership numbers more than tripled over the past year,” she said. “We now have members from more than 46 different towns in the North Texas region.”
The institute also needed to expand its curriculum to receive the endowment, Reinke said. The institute added about 200 classes in the past year, she said.
OLLI at UNT offers classes at five locations, including the UNT New College at Frisco, which is located in Hall Park. The institute is partnering with the city of Frisco to move classes to the Senior Center at Frisco Square next summer. Classes will be offered on Fridays.
Classes will move again to new senior center called The Grove at Frisco Commons when it opens next year. Classes at The Grove will be offered two days a week. The move would give seniors easier access to classes, Reinke said.
UNT began a lifelong learning program in 2009. The program became an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in 2017. The Bernard Osher Foundation aims to improve quality of life through higher education and lifelong learning institutes at more than 100 campuses across the country.
Course topics at OLLI at UNT include art, finance and business, history, philosophy, science, engineering and current events. The institute’s faculty is volunteer-based. Professors are either retired experts in their field or active UNT faculty.
“They don’t get paid; they volunteer to do this because they teach what they’re passionate about,” Reinke said.
Members can also join out-of-town trips, some of which are international. The 2019 trips include Cuba, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New England. The institute also hosts social events throughout the year.
The trips and classes are chosen by OLLI at UNT members, not UNT staff, Reinke said.
“We don’t as a staff sit here and decide what we think we’re going to be interested in,” she said. “We have committees that are made up of the members, and they select the classes. So we know it’s what they want.”
The institute offers annual memberships with either unlimited courses or a fee of $10 per course.
“[Members are] not getting graded, they’re not getting homework,” Reinke said. “They’re just going because they’re interested in the topic. It’s a great learning environment: people that want to be there learning and people that want to be there teaching.”
OLLI at UNT showcase
The institute will host a free information session for potential members to learn about the program. Lunch will be provided.
Date: Feb. 11
Time: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Location: Senior Center at Frisco Square, 6670 Moore St., Frisco