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Lifelong-learning effort feels like a million bucks

The endowment is evidence that the institute at Eckerd College is growing.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2007

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Eckerd College has been awarded a $1-million endowment to continue providing noncredited educational opportunities to area adults.

The endowment came after two $100,000 grants from the Osher Foundation, based in California, which supplies funding to institutions for continued learning around the country.

The foundation typically provides a number of the smaller grants to an existing program, which then becomes an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI program.

The foundation then awards the endowment based on the institute's progress.

"The thing that the foundation looks for specifically is that the institute serves a large number of people and that they are growing," said David Blazevich, senior program officer at the Osher Foundation.

The OLLI program received news of the endowment this summer. It had 800 members last year and will likely have close to 1,000 this year.

The Osher Foundation also was impressed by the staff and the variety of courses and trips provided to students.

Jim Frasier, director of continued education and the OLLI program, said they provide students 50 and oldera wide range of classes that focus on academics.

"You'll see our classes are very academically oriented, where a lot of programs do arts and crafts," Frasier said.

Dr. Duncan MacMillan, who has been an instructor in the program for five years, said the program stands out thanks to the administration's progressive approach to education and the large number of returning students each year.

"I'm free to help them pursue more concentrated interests in different subject areas," MacMillan said.

He teaches courses that are custom-designed for his students on classical music and ancient Greece. He recently took a group of students to Greece for 16 days.

"They got to be in the places we had been talking about," he said.

Frasier said the program could potentially receive another $1-million endowment when it reaches 1,000 members.

Nick Johnson can be reached at or 893-8361.

[Last modified September 9, 2007, 01:59:31]

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