Among the many opportunities offered by the Osher Institute is the chance to participate in its growth and development as a volunteer. We take this opportunity to acquaint you with your Osher Institute Leadership Council on which your fellow Osher members serve.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute was developed in 2004 by the University of Richmond’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS). Now in its seventh year, the Osher Institute provides a wide variety of interesting learning opportunities, on campus, for those of us “50 and better.” An Osher member has many choices: mini-courses, audit courses, lunch time lectures, special events and social activities almost year ‘round. Most everything takes place on the beautiful Richmond campus. We Osher members are students once again, carrying a student ID card which provides many benefits including access to the Boatwright Library, the Heilman Dining Center, and the Modlin Center for the Arts. What could be better?

Formed to advise the School of Continuing Studies, the Osher Leadership Council is made up of leaders and members of five volunteer teams: Membership, Marketing, Curriculum, Development, and Course Leader Support. You may already know these Council members: Bill Bailey, Sheryl DeLeo, Marshall Ervine, Delores Kimbrough, George Pangburn, Ann Smoot, Ann Williams, Tim Williams, and Sally Wood. I serve as the Team Leader for the Development Team and as the Chairman of the Council for 2011. Each Council member serves a three-year term.

The Council meets quarterly with Osher Director Jane Dowrick and Osher Administrative Coordinator Debra Guild. Dr. Patricia Johnson Brown, senior associate dean of the SCS, meets with us as well. We receive reports from the five team leaders about their team’s activities, and we discuss with the Osher and SCS staff the development and management of the Institute’s programs, membership matters, and our relationship with the University. Every Council member is eager to see the Institute thrive because it is such an important means to enable “lifelong learning.” The Council is keenly aware of the interest and support of Osher on the part of SCS Dean Jim Narduzzi, Ph.D., and of Dr. Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond. The in-kind support of the University provides the facilities for classes, and support for the Osher infrastructure. We are fortunate, indeed, to be the recipients of such generosity!

The Council regularly assesses the “state of Osher” to ensure adherence to our mission, continuing improvements in class offerings, and to focus attention on the needs of older students, both retired individuals and those who still work. Our most recent Retreat was held on campus in January.

Looking to the future is the Council’s main, long-range responsibility. Recruitment and retention of members is vital to the mission and purpose of the Institute. While it is wonderful for Osher members to make new friends and to see these friends often in class or on an Osher hike, it is essential for Osher to enjoy a steady influx of new students, eager to experience the classroom, the special interest groups, and life on campus once more. The Membership Team and the Marketing Team particularly focus on membership recruitment and retention. Sally Wood and Ann Smoot would welcome your input about membership and marketing.

Equally important is development (fund raising) that will help keep Osher fees affordable for both retirees and older individuals who are still employed. As the desire for innovative programs and activities will certainly grow over the years, the Development Team has initiated the Osher Annual Fund Campaign, and plans to design a “planned giving” program, and to implement corporate solicitation efforts, all in cooperation with the University’s Advancement Office.

Without well designed, exciting course offerings in the liberal arts, where would Osher be? The Curriculum Team works with Jane Dowrick, Osher’s director, to design and develop the best possible courses for the fall, spring and summer semesters. This team really wants your suggestions. Please share your thoughts, as well as your desires, for new and different courses with Jane, or Team Leader Sheryl De Leo. Perhaps you will find yourself volunteering to design and teach a new Osher class!

Don’t be turned off by any trepidation you might have about teaching or organizing a new class. The Course Leader Support Team is here to help you every step of the way. Experienced teachers and trainers are ready to answer your cries for “help.” If you have an idea for a course offering, be sure to explore that idea with team members who will support you. Bill Bailey and Tim Williams would welcome your help.

From these brief descriptions of Osher teams, I hope you will see that the Leadership Council is made up of team leaders and team members who have the same interests as you. They have volunteered to work together to explore an idea or solve a problem.

You can see that the Leadership Council enjoys a “clearing house” role in which the ideas, critiques, and needs of the Institute may be explored and acted upon in our advisory role to the School of Continuing Studies. That we have extensive latitude in what we discuss and recommend demonstrates the cordial, trusting relationship which exists between the University and the Osher Institute. The School of Continuing Studies looks to the Council for program innovations, and honest evaluations gleaned from all the Osher members.

If you have thoughts about Osher’s continued development, its current programs, its interest groups, and would like to share them, please email me at cbooberg@aol.com or call me at (804) 379-7732. I’ll promise to deliver your message to the right Osher volunteers for consideration and action.

–Carl Booberg, Leadership Council chair (Photo by Tim Hanger)