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Osher Institute at the U. of I. to provide a center for lifelong learning

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Curious minds over age 50 will soon find new opportunities to learn and explore, thanks to the establishment of an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The university has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation to establish the institute this year, with the possibility for renewals of the grant each of the next three years, followed by consideration for an endowment grant of at least $1 million.

The university is planning to locate the home for the institute within the redevelopment of its Orchard Downs property, as part of an intergenerational, living-learning community, according to Kathleen Holden-Pecknold, the director of the new institute.

The U. of I. institute will join a network of more than 90 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes established throughout the U.S. since 2001, Holden-Pecknold said. “Each institute hosts a lifelong learning program developed specifically for adults over 50, each benefits from a strong university connection and support, many engage emeritus faculty along with active faculty and peer leaders, and all offer a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses,” she said.

“The university community is delighted to be joining the Osher network,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “We believe that our interests and resources will allow us to enhance the intellectual and cultural lives of our campus and community citizens over 50 years of age, and we are grateful to the Bernard Osher Foundation for this opportunity.”

Holden-Pecknold said this was an opportune time and place to establish an Osher institute. “The university already has a strong track record of reaching beyond the walls of traditional college classrooms with community-based courses and with research aimed at improving the intellectual enjoyment, wellness, physical fitness and mental acuity of our citizens of every age,” she said.

The university also benefits from strong relations with the cities of Urbana and Champaign and with local agencies, she said.

The first priority in organizing the institute, Holden-Pecknold said, will be to bring together the organizations and individuals already providing extensive lifelong learning and healthy aging opportunities in Champaign County.

The goals of that discussion, and of the alliance she hopes would result, would be to organize an integrated community approach to serving people over 50, to extend the reach of current providers to potential audiences, and to provide feedback to Osher and to the U. of I. about the best way to use lifelong learning resources.

For additional information, contact Holden-Pecknold at 217-333-6394;