Written by George Pangburn

On a beautiful spring morning in early April, I sat down with Dr. Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, in his Maryland Hall office to discuss his thoughts about the Osher program at UR and lifelong learning in general. As you probably know, Dr. Ayers recently announced his decision to step down from the Presidency in 2015 to pursue his scholarly interests. 

In our conversation, he expressed his strong belief in the concept of lifelong learning and noted that there are many ways to pursue this in one’s life. The UR Osher Institute and the other programs at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) represent outstanding vehicles to continue personal growth, challenge, and involvement.

Dr. Ayers observed that UR is ahead of the curve with its involvement with life-long learning, and he is proud of the many accomplishments in its 10 years here. He noted that he had met with Bernard Osher, whose foundation has endowed Osher Institutes across the nation. During their conversation at the San Francisco Osher headquarters, Dr. Ayers got the clear sense that the UR program is regarded as a special one. He attributes much of that to the leadership provided by Jim Narduzzi, dean of SPCS, and Jane Dowrick, recently retired director of the Osher Institute. He noted that the Osher program has leveraged the advantages of being at UR with its campus setting, the faculty, and the physical facilities, and, in turn, the University community has embraced Osher.

We talked about the relationships between UR’s degree-granting programs, both graduate and undergraduate and the Osher program. Specifically, we discussed auditing of UR classes by Osher students, and teaching of Osher classes by both current and retired UR faculty. Dr. Ayers believes that those efforts should be continued, as both programs stand to benefit from the shared experiences and insights of Osher students and continued interaction with the ongoing research interests of the faculty. Near the end of our conversation he stated that he views the Osher program as the embodiment of the Richmond Promise, the five-year strategic plan that has guided the University since 2009.

Reflecting his personal support for lifelong learning, Dr. Ayers will be teaching an Osher class this summer titled, “Presence of the Past: Richmond’s History,” scheduled for July 7, 9, and 11, with each session running 1:00–3:00 p.m. His class will reflect on the meaning and consequences of the Civil War to Richmond even today. We are fortunate that he has chosen to remain as a faculty member at UR and to share his experience and knowledge with the Osher program.