Institute offers wealth of learning

    Ever wonder just how the Internet works? Thinking about starting a home-based business? Want to learn a foreign language, or explore the short stories of Anton Chekov? For these and dozens of other interests, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University has a class for you. And thanks to a second $1 million grant, OLLI will be enriching the lives of local residents in their 50s and older for years to come.

    Originally called Southern Oregon Learning in Retirement (SOLIR), the program changed its name to OLLI when it received two $100,000 grants and then the first million-dollar grant in 2007 from the Bernard Osher Foundation.

    The second big gift is a testament to the success of the institute, which has doubled the number of students and tripled the number of classes since 2007. OLLI now offers 20 percent of its classes in Medford at the Higher Education Center.

    OLLI offers more than 100 classes on an enormous variety of stimulating topics, taught by local residents from all walks of life and dedicated to the idea of learning just for the fun of it. More than 1,000 students happily pay the modest tuition of $100 a year. In return, they can take as many classes as they wish.

    The $1 million grant will be invested, and will yield $50,000 to $100,000 a year, adding to a similar amount from the first grant.

    While it is housed at SOU, OLLI is truly a community operation, governed by an elected council and using volunteer teachers.

    Southern Oregon is a remarkable place to live for many reasons, including the hospitable climate and spectacular scenery. But the area's cultural offerings are the envy of many more populous communities. OLLI is just another example of the rich quality of life available for the taking here.

    So if you're a local senior with a curiosity about nearly anything, chances are you'll find a class to teach you more about it. The schedule for 2012 is available now at, and classes begin Jan. 3.

    The institute offers three terms of classes now, and is considering adding a summer term.

    Classes beginning in January include singing, organic gardening, the geology of Southern Oregon, German, Spanish, how to use a digital camera and how to choose a cruise, just to name a few.

    So don't just sit there — get learning.

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