The School of Professional Development hosts the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at SBU Program. OLLI at SBU is one of 124 Osher Institutes, all made possible by generous grants and endowments from the Bernard Osher Foundation. OLLI is dedicated to providing a lively and intellectually challenging array of non-credit courses taught year-round in a university setting by other OLLI members. The program currently offers social and cultural enrichment through thought-provoking workshops per semester and a variety of exciting day-trips. OLLI members come from all walks of life and career paths and is open to retired and semi-retired individuals aged 50 or older regardless of their level of education or career experience, who are interested in a diverse learning environment that fosters mutual sharing of ideas, life experiences and the love of learning. There are no tests, no grades—no pre-requisites to join!
OLLI workshops cover every possible genre you can imagine and are led by current OLLI members who volunteer their time. New workshops are always being considered and many are inspired by members of OLLI. There are many avenues for participation in OLLI aside from taking workshops. We encourage members to join one of our many committees, teach a workshop or attend one of our special event trips or lecture series.
The different tiers of memberships offered at OLLI at SBU have expanded. The program now offers Annual memberships that encompass the Spring, Summer and Fall semesters; Term memberships that encompass a single semester and Recreational memberships for members who are interested in participating in off campus recreational activities all while still having the benefits of attending OLLI programming and events. Offering different tiers of membership allows the program to be more affordable to seniors on a fixed income and also allows members who travel during the winter months to have an opportunity to participate without paying the full annual membership price.
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.
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.
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.
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.