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History of OLLI


Before OLLI: The Round Table 

The first glimmerings of what was to become The Round Table began in 1987 when the Dean of the School of Professional Development suggested that consideration be given to establishing a peer-taught program for retirees similar to the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Harvard University. An Advisory Committee of about eight individuals met on January 28, 1988, to implement such a program at the University. Soon an Organizing Committee of 15 individuals began having regular meetings with the first director of the program. The program’s director and staff are members of the School of Professional Development.

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The Organizing Committee met during the spring of 1988 to select the program’s name, devise curriculum, set an annual fee, write a brochure, devise by-laws, and organize an open house. A grant from the office of New York State Senator Lack, in response to a proposal from the School of Professional Development, permitted the committee to buy equipment such as computers, projectors, audio and video equipment, maps, and a cabinet to store some of these items. Registration was held during September, and on October 4, 1988, the first semester began with five study groups and 37 members.

With succeeding semesters, The Round Table grew both in terms of membership and also in the number and variety of workshops and activities, including day trips to places of interest and showcases, featuring guest speakers and performances. By the year 2000, as a consequence of this growth, it became necessary to add the services of an Assistant Director, aided by a full-time secretary, whose sole responsibility was to administer to the needs of The Round Table. Additional grants from the office of Senator Lack permitted the organization to renovate rooms S109 to create office space, and S102 to create additional classroom spaces. Additional classrooms and meeting spaces are continually being added to meet the needs of this extraordinary program.

Current OLLI

On July 1, 2007, with a generous grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, The Round Table was renamed and became the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Stony Brook University. The Bernard Osher Foundation was established by Bernard and Barbro Osher to help institutions of higher education nationwide provide intellectually stimulating programs for retired or semi-retired individuals.

With the receipt of the program’s second grant, announced on December 14, 2016 by University President Dr. Samuel Stanley to a room of over 300 members attending the program’s Annual Holiday Luncheon, OLLI at Stony Brook University is currently the proud recipient of two endowments from the Bernard Osher Foundation. 

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OLLI will continue to be a program within the School of Professional Development open to those mature adults who are interested in expanding their intellectual horizons in a university setting and who pay the annual fee. Avenues for participation include workshops, lectures, day trips, committees, and social activities. The peer-taught workshops, which carry no credits or prerequisites, are designed to offer an informal exchange of ideas among all participants within a framework of accomplishing the workshop objectives.

OLLI currently offers over 100 workshops per semester, and a variety of day-trips to over 1000 members. In addition, it has become a visible and important part of the University community.

In March 2020, OLLI was faced with the difficult decision to move the entire program onto a virtual platform due to COVID-19. This decision was made keeping the safety of our members the number one priority. We wanted to be able to provide continued communication and engagement for our membership despite not being able to meet in a face-to-face manner.

In the Fall of 2022 the OLLI Program returned to campus for In-Person programming. In addition to returning to the classroom, OLLI at SBU continues to offer programming on Zoom as well as our newest platform Hybrid Learning where members have the option of participating from the comfort of their homes while others take part in the classroom simultaneously!