Never too late to learn

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute aren’t the typical Temple student.

For the majority of undergraduate students, the desire to fulfill General Education requirements, complete courses for their majors and earn degrees to prepare them for a career is enough motivation to go to class.

Some students say going to class isn’t about working toward a degree or fulfilling requirements. It is about the simple joy of learning.

OLLI students contribute life experiences and degrees to the classroom atmosphere (Jimmy Viola/TTN).

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers retirees the opportunity to take a variety of courses at TUCC.

OLLI, formerly Temple Association for Retired Persons, has an assortment of non-credit classes that do not require homework, quizzes or finals. Varied topics include architecture, jazz, computers, Hebrew, Hinduism and African history. The courses are designed to ward off memory loss and other mental effects of aging.

“I wanted to keep busy and keep my mind active,” said Janis Smith, a retired attorney.

Adam Brunner, the director of OLLI, said students take classes not only to learn about interesting topics, but also to pursue hobbies such as art and learn skills associated with computer technology.
“There are a lot of casualties of the Digital Divide,” Brunner said.

With the computer skills they learn at OLLI, students can “interact with their children and grandchildren” in ways they couldn’t before.

Classes are not the only reasons that attract seniors. Many of the students, who are Temple graduates, enjoy meeting others in the program.

“There’s not only an educational aspect but a social aspect as well,” Brunner said.

Bill Mark joined OLLI originally as a student and now teaches a class about Hinduism.
“It’s a fantastic place to come to just for the people,” Mark said.

OLLI students bring a lifetime of experience and perspective to the classroom, which Brunner said makes for “a diversity of opinions that are expressed readily.”

With such a resource of knowledge coming from the students themselves, it’s not always the professors who have the answers.

“I went to grad school and I think this is higher and better. That says a lot,” said Abe Cohen, an OLLI student.

Lively discussions are among OLLI’s most important attributes.

“One of the stereotypes is that younger people have energy and older people have wisdom, but it’s so clear how much energy they have in this environment,” Brunner said. “Our students are more vocal than younger students.”

Though students are just as well-versed on class topics as the teachers, many of the teachers are also students.

Mark refers to himself as a “facilitator” and a “first among equals.”

Without the pressure of grades, letters of recommendation and credits, students “aren’t shy about giving faculty feedback,” Brunner said. “I get lots of good advice.”

Student involvement is not only a fundamental part of the classes, it is the institute itself. OLLI has only two paid staff members, and much of the planning is done by student volunteer committees. The educational committee makes decisions about classes and faculty. Much of the faculty is active or retired Temple professors, while some are students who have knowledge of a topic. Committees also make decisions about how OLLI is operated.

Annual dues for OLLI membership are $240. Students can attend as many OLLI classes as they choose without having to register for classes individually. They can also sit in on one undergraduate credit course on any Temple campus.

OLLI committees plan trips, including the upcoming outing to the Philadelphia Film Tour, which is a guided bus tour of sites in the area where famous movies were filmed. The OLLI membership committee hopes to expand the student body from 700 to 1,000.

Mark said younger students need to value their time at Temple.

“I sometimes feel education is wasted on the young.”

Daniel Assaraf can be reached at


  1. the religion of my grandfather is Hinduism and he says that it is a great religion.;”*

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