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May 28, 2015

Osher gets another million-dollar grant

Pitt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) has earned a second million-dollar endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation after far exceeding its fundraising goals announced in November (see Nov. 20, 2014, University Times).

Of the 117 OLLI programs in the country, which offer noncredit courses, day trips and other travel targeted to those 50 and older, Pitt’s program is one of fewer than 25 to earn a second such grant. That’s particularly significant because these endowments no longer will be offered after this summer, notes director Jennifer L. Engel.

Pitt’s strategic plan called for expanding OLLI course offerings, diversifying its participants and offering classes outside of Oakland.

By December, OLLI had far exceeded its goal of raising $20,000 from 15 percent of its membership, raising $45,000 from 43 percent of members (or about 500 people), plus gifts from 100 others.

When Engel informed the Osher Foundation of the University’s early success, Pitt’s OLLI was invited to apply for the second endowment. Pitt received its first OLLI endowment in 2007.

With the second $1 million grant, OLLI at Pitt already has begun to implement its strategic plan goals. Staff members are aiming their marketing efforts at Pittsburgh’s more diverse neighborhoods by appearing on Pittsburgh Today Live, running ads on the sides of Port Authority buses and creating a new brochure. By January 2016, OLLI staffers will be visible in those neighborhoods, looking for a greater diversity in gender, race and age of OLLI members, Engel says.

Later, OLLI will aim to establish satellite centers outside of Oakland in Pittsburgh areas where public transportation is readily available but the neighborhood is less crowded and expensive than that surrounding the Pitt campus.

Engel is pleased that OLLI didn’t have to undertake its other traditional fundraising strategies to achieve its goal: “The members and the instructors really rallied around this. It truly is an achievement for the program and the members.”

—Marty Levine