URI lands $1M from Osher Foundation

THE OSHER LIFELONG Learning Institute at the University of Rhode Island has landed a $1 million gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation for high membership and exceeding benchmarks since its 2009 inception.
Posted 3/1/13

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island has received a $1 million gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation to support URI’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a continuing education program open to Rhode Islanders ages 50 and older.

In a release announcing the $1 million gift, URI boasts that its Osher Institute has “no exams, no grades, and no requirements for an academic degree. In fact,” it continued, “no previous experience or degree is necessary, just a desire to learn for the joy of it.”

Housed at 210 Flagg Rd. on the University’s main campus, the institute provides three- to six-week courses, as well as one-time lectures, self-directed workshops and opportunities to volunteer.

In 2012, the program offered 84 different classes, lectures and activities, and during the fall session alone, had 550 class participants. According to URI, in the program’s first semester in 2009, it offered only five classes.

The Bernard Osher Foundation made its $1 million gift to URI for having exceeded 500 members and meeting other benchmarks within the past four years.

According to a release, the gift will be used to establish an endowment to provide ongoing support for the institute. The Osher Foundation also made a bridge donation of $50,000, which will be used to support the program until the endowment can begin generating funds.

“The pursuit of scholarship, discovery and understanding does not stop upon the attainment of a degree,” David M. Dooley, president of the University of Rhode Island, said in prepared remarks. “Our institution is a resource for all Rhode Islanders who seek new opportunities to learn and engage with others in a variety of ways. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Osher Foundation to inspire lifelong learning within our state and encourage more adult learners to get involved in our dynamic and diverse campus community.”

A $425,000, four-year grant from the URI Foundation led to the creation of the program in 2009. “The progress the program has made since receiving its initial grant in 2009 has been outstanding,” Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman said in a statement. “We salute the institute’s dedicated volunteers and staff — as well as the leadership of the University of Rhode Island — for developing such an exceptional educational program. We are delighted to provide this permanent support.”

In addition to providing members with lectures, volunteer opportunities and workshops, the program provides them with meeting spaces for book clubs and other non-class gatherings, as well as student rates at URI theater, music and sporting events.

“After all, our members are part of the university,” Beth Leconte, executive director of the program, said in a statement. To become a member, interested parties should visit uri.edu/olli/. Membership is $50 for 2013.

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