The students of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNLV are interested in education, attentive in class, engaged and not afraid to speak their minds. They are also further along in years than the average student, with most of the anticipated 1,200 students retired and older than 50.
The program began in 1991 as Excel, a continuing education opportunity for senior citizens. In 2008, the program began receiving grants from the Bernard Osher Foundation, and following a $1 million endowment from the foundation, the name was changed to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Osher has been called “the quiet philanthropist,” donating millions of dollars annually. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNLV is just one of 117 across the country funded in part by the foundation.
Most of the classes take place at UNLV’s Paradise campus, 851 E. Tropicana Ave., but there are also seven satellite campus locations in Summerlin, Henderson and North Las Vegas near neighborhoods with a large senior community.
Students pay $75 per term to attend as many classes as they want.There are three terms per year, and a special discounted rate of $150 allows students to attend classes in three consecutive terms.
More than 90 classes are offered this term, including genealogy, German Films of the 20th Century, Star Trek 101 and Christmas with Santa Claus in which a professional Santa Claus with over 20 years experience discusses the history and current role of the Jolly Old Elf.
“Our instructors are members of the program themselves. They’re all volunteers,” said Rich Easter, assistant director of the institute. “They bring a wealth of professional and personal experience that they’ve gained over a lifetime of learning.”
Cathy Lowe spent much of her life traveling, advising courts. She served as the educational coordinator for the state Supreme Courts of Arizona and California. It was the friends she made early in her professional life working as the director of juvenile probation services for Clark County who brought her and her husband, John MacDonald, back to the valley when they retired.
“We didn’t really have a plan for what we’d do after we retired,” Lowe said. “For three months we ate bacon and eggs every morning and started to puff out. We decided we’d better do something constructive in our lives.”
A friend invited her to check out a class at the learning institute and she was hooked.
“There was a guy discussing the tribal relationships in Afghanistan, which is something I’d never really thought about,” Lowe said. “I whipped out my cellphone and called my husband and said ‘You’ve got to get down here. This is really great.’ We stuck around and it was so enjoyable that we both started teaching. Now it’s the centerpiece of our intellectual golden years.”
Lowe is teaching Pompeii: the Great Cultural Crossroads to Annihilation this term while her husband teaches The History of Nevada and Photography for Everyone.
Mike Cutler is scheduled to teach a current events class based on media coverage called So What’s New(s)?
“We look at current events and how Fox, CNN or other news outlets covered it,” Cutler said. “It’s a Monday morning class, and there’s always plenty of subject matter to work with.”
Cutler is a retired TV producer who worked as news director of Channel 3 in Las Vegas from 1987 to 1994, among other jobs. He returned to Las Vegas when he retired and found satisfaction in teaching his class at the institute.
“What draws me in is the level of interest of OLLI members,” Cutler said. “These are people who are interested in the news and know about what’s going on, and they challenge each other and me. There are some very lively discussions in class.”
The new term begins is slated to begin Sept. 8. For more information, including class schedules and descriptions, visit olli.unlv.edu.
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.