A visit with OLLI at SOU

“When one teaches, two learn.”

— Robert Heinlein, science fiction author

Nothing is more advantageous for a writer than to listen. Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting with like-minded and, especially, different-minded peers in an atmosphere of creative thinking and exchanging ideas? What better way to exercise the maturing brain and pump it up with fresh wrinkles?

I drove to Ashland yesterday to answer these and other curiosities, and to learn what all the hoopla was surrounding OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I’d caught write-ups about it for years; it beckoned, and I knew the goal involved further educating the older generation. I’m all for that, because learning is appreciated a lot more when you’ve outgrown the tendency to take it for granted. Though adults of any age may join, the program is geared toward those 50 and older.

I made Lane go with me, because he was an alumnus of SOU and might know his way around. The first thing he noticed when we entered Stevenson Union was how much things had changed since the '80s. For one thing, everyone had aged. The halls were a-bustle with active, seemingly alert older people, all checking out various booths and classes being offered. In fact, we felt like the youngsters there, a rare treat.

A one-year membership with OLLI costs $125, which covers multiple classes. Students sign up for the offerings they want by desired priority, up to three per semester. Afterward, they may choose additional courses during the open enrollment period.

The primary fall course request period runs from July 24-Aug. 4, and students are notified Aug. 14. On Aug. 21, open registration begins for remaining openings, and you may sign up for as many as you choose.

So, even though there are 103 classes this year with a wide variety of disciplines available, you may not get every class you desire. But that could be a blessing in disguise. It could force a decision to try something completely different, like, say Scrabble. That is among the listings, and if my last performance with the tiles is an accurate portrayal of my skill, I should have already signed up.

If I’ve accomplished nothing more than utter confusion at this point, I apologize. Visit their website at www.olli@sou.edu to get it all straightened out. Or call the nice people at 541-552-6048.

While strolling through class offerings hoping to find world geography so I can get on Jeopardy, I visited with Betsy Beyer, one of several helpful volunteers. It didn’t hurt that she read this column. Anyway, she said they had estimated having 2,000 members by the year 2020, but they achieved a membership of 1,800 this year. We boomers are hitting our stride.

Betsy encourages those with a yen to volunteer to teach a class. They welcome new teachers and classes every year, and all they require is knowledge about the subject (that would help) and an excitement or passion to share it with others. Susan Stitham leads a class titled Teaching at OLLI, a great launching point for anyone interested.

Then there was the man in the tricorn hat and white Williamsburg vestige. Michael J. Reynolds became one with his subject matter and got my attention. His course, Battles of the American Revolution, Part I, promised authenticity indeed. He said he’d bought the outfit the day before in Williamsburg, but I noticed he wasn’t out of breath, so he may have been having me on.

Most of the classes are on campus at SOU, though a few are in Medford. I just wish I were closer to all that opportunity — a never-ending supply of column subjects with fascinating lives and experiences. Friendships are formed there and community flourishes. As their slogan suggests, “Come for the classes ... Stay for the connections.”

— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.

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