By Carl Booberg (Photo by Tim Hanger)

In 2004, your Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning was established at the University of Richmond. Thanks to the efforts of the Senior Associate Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, Dr. Patricia Brown, and her fellow educators, a successful application resulted in an endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation of $1,000,000. to establish and fund the program. Income from the endowment and members’ fees underwrite almost all of the Institute’s expenses on an annual basis. Of course, the Osher Institute, as we members know it, would not exist without the generous, in-kind contributions of the University of Richmond. We fortunate members receive the benefit of wonderful classroom facilities and enjoy a myriad of student privileges on a beautiful campus just as though we were one of today’s University of Richmond undergraduates.

Your Osher Institute has a Leadership Council made up of Osher volunteers who oversee the plans and activities of the Institute together with the Osher professional staff, Jane Dowrick, director, and Debra Guild, administrative coordinator. Dr. Brown advises the Council’s members.

The Council is not a policy setting body but is mainly focused on the development of the curriculum and the related programs and opportunities offered to Osher members over the three semesters: spring, summer and fall

One of the Council’s members is the chairman of the Curriculum Team. Current chair Dr. Sheryl DeLeo leads a team of energetic Osher members who work with Jane Dowrick and Debra Guild to produce a fascinating curriculum each semester.

The Curriculum Team’s goal is to provide Osher members with a wide variety of academic and liberal arts courses and programs. The offerings scheduled for the fall of 2012 are exciting and  interesting. It is a challenge to schedule all the courses one would like to take!

The Curriculum Team meets frequently to review each course and its evaluation, to discuss ideas for new courses and programs, to update popular courses and to recruit course leaders for the Institute’s offerings. When I attended a recent meeting, I came to understand something very important about the Osher Institute and, particularly, the Curriculum Team. Namely, that the Institute, and all that it offers, belongs not to the University, but to each and every Osher member. Every one of us, as Osher members, has the opportunity to recommend courses and programs, even special, one-of-a-kind activities. We can outline the course offering, give details of the design and content, and recommend the course leader, placing our idea in the hands of the Curriculum Team for its consideration.

This opportunity to develop courses and programs means that we are not expected to be recipients only of what is planned for us by University staff and educators. It means that we are encouraged to participate in the creation of our own Osher Institute courses and programs, working in harmony with our excellent staff members.

Here is your chance to work closely with the Curriculum Team members who will welcome you and your ideas and recommendations. You could always try out your idea by describing it to Jane Dowrick and/or Sheryl DeLeo. You could also sign up for a “Workshop for Developing and Leading Osher Courses.” Offered periodically, this free course will help you design and lead your own course. Please check the current Osher catalog for the date and time of the next session.

Perhaps you are an Osher member who already knows how to design a course and lead it for interested members. Nancy Owens is just such a member. Having written and self-published a family memoir, and encouraged all her siblings and cousins to participate, Nancy is now teaching the Osher course “Transforming Memories into Memoirs.” Her class is a real opportunity for Osher members to put on paper family history and the memories of a lifetime. You would be amazed to learn how easy it can be if you use Nancy’s techniques, guidelines and “memory triggers.” Her class is incredibly interesting because the members share stories and writing styles in addition to having time in class to draft another chapter in each member’s own life story. Why not follow in Nancy’s footsteps?

Yes, the Osher Institute does belong to its members, many of whom are already helping develop next semester’s offerings. Please think about your own interests and experiences which could very well form the basis for an interesting course or program. Or whom do you know who would provide a fascinating topic, perhaps even work with you on a special topic to present? Why not share that special expertise which you have developed over a lifetime? I think you will be surprised at the positive response you will receive from the Curriculum Team and the Osher staff. Why not give it a whirl? There is still time to make plans for the summer semester 2013!