Once again OLLI friend Carol Walker has provided a beautiful photograph for our Autumn 2013 OLLI catalog cover. Two of Carol’s many passions are travel and photography, resulting in several cover photos and lectures on the “Eye of the Photographer” over the years. The current photo, “Smile” required no travel because it was taken from Carol’s own balcony on St. Pete Beach, just a few miles from the Eckerd College campus.
I have just returned from a trip, a bit farther afield, with our Dean of Special Programs, Kelly Kirschner, OLLI Advisory Council member Angela Baisley, and Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC) member Tom Handcock. Tom and Kelly took turns driving the rental car to visit OLLI programs at Furman University and the University of North Carolina in Asheville before attending the Southern Conference for Lifelong Learning at the University of Georgia in Athens. This year, more than 200 conference attendees shared information about their lifelong learning institutes at sessions dealing with topics such as curriculum, financial sustainability, and volunteers.
Conference attendees learned how different all the lifelong learning centers are. Membership rates and class costs range in price from institution to institution. Some programs are home to a few hundred members and others have thousands. Some are small groups not affiliated with a school, renting space in their communities. Others, such as the OLLIs at Furman and UNC/Asheville have beautiful buildings dedicated to their programs, built in large part through member-led fundraising efforts.
One common thread at the conference was the difficult task of staying on budget with rising costs and the desire to keep membership and class costs as affordable as possible. To that end, last year we published a combined autumn/winter publication rather than two separate catalogs and limited ourselves to one mailing and emailed link to our website for the summer catalog. Though these measures cut costs, we still did not meet budget for the year. That is why, as all the other OLLI programs we met, we are reliant on our members to make tax deductible donations or to think of OLLI in their estate planning. Knowing that OLLI members understand these costs, we have faith that we can again publish three catalogs per year that OLLI members favor – passionately.
Passion was the other common trait at the conference – the shared goal of OLLI members, volunteers, administrators, and instructors to form lifelong learning communities. It was a passion I recognized from home, from OLLI at Eckerd College. I see it in our lifelong learners, the volunteers who make our program possible, in the instructors sharing their expertise, The Advisory Council devoting their time and skills, and the photographer dangling off her balcony to capture a fleeting smile.
- Tom Santee, Director, OLLI at Eckerd College