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Vanderbilt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute awarded second million-dollar gift

Feb. 29, 2016, 7:50 AM

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt will reach a larger, broader and more diverse population of adult learners in Middle Tennessee, thanks to significant additional financial support from The Bernard Osher Foundation.

The Bernard Osher Foundation, which seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts, recently contributed $950,000 in endowment and $50,000 in operating support to expand and strengthen Vanderbilt’s offerings for lifelong learning and engagement.

“The generous support by the Osher Foundation, coupled with our strong university resources, will ensure the long-term sustainability of our institute and benefit thousands of lifelong learners for years to come,” said Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos.

The Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected businessman and community leader. The foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults. It also provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation, with special attention to reentry students. In addition, the foundation has established five comprehensive centers in integrative medicine in the United States and Sweden, including the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University.

This gift to Vanderbilt marks the Osher Foundation’s second $1 million contribution to the university’s lifelong learning institute. In 2009, the Osher Foundation awarded $1 million to establish the institute’s endowment and $50,000 to support the program’s operating needs. At that time, Vanderbilt’s lifelong learning program was known as Retirement Learning at Vanderbilt. It was renamed the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt as part of the foundation’s agreement with the university.

Mary G.F. Bitterman, president of the Osher Foundation, praised the excellence of the institute’s programming and the deep commitment of its members when she announced the second $1 million endowment gift. “We recognize that the program’s success represents the collective achievement of its excellent staff and dynamic community of intellectually vigorous members, who give generously of their time, talent and financial resources,” Bitterman said. “We applaud, too, the university’s leadership for its steadfast support of the program and for embracing the notion that—at its best—education is a lifelong pursuit that has the power to elevate, delight and forge our connection to one another and to a larger world.”

Through the years, the foundation has awarded a total of $2,300,000 to support Vanderbilt’s lifelong learning resources.

Vanderbilt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers a six-week series in the fall, winter and spring terms. “We are fortunate to have current and retired Vanderbilt faculty members representing a wide area of disciplines to teach our intellectually stimulating classes,” said Norma Clippard, the director. “In addition, we can tap into faculty talent from the wealth of universities in our region, including Tennessee State, Fisk, Belmont and Middle Tennessee State universities. Through our higher education relationships, we also have secured faculty members outside of Middle Tennessee.”

In addition, curriculum offerings have increased and now reach beyond the university into the community through partnerships with local nonprofit organizations that include the Nashville Opera, Tennessee Repertory Theatre and Nashville Shakespeare Festival.

Many of the classes are offered on campus, such as the Blair School of Music and The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt. This reflects the university’s deep commitment to undergraduates, graduate students and older lifelong learners, who all benefit from each other’s presence on campus. In addition to the course offerings, there are “Lunch and Learn” lectures, day trips and special events, including an annual meeting of the membership with a prominent speaker.

Membership has grown significantly during the Osher Foundation’s support, providing more opportunities for older adults to experience personal growth and social engagement. Last year the number of unduplicated, dues-paying members for Vanderbilt’s Osher Institute was 1,174. This marked a 27 percent increase over the past three years.

“Our membership growth, with support from the Osher Foundation, provides more opportunities for volunteerism with our classes and special events,” Clippard said. “This has energized many of our members and increased their involvement and passion for lifelong learning.”

Participation in Vanderbilt’s Osher Institute is open to all those 50 and older who are interested in learning for a lifetime. For more information, email Norma Clippard or call 615-322-5569.

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