By Kristin Bartus

Zoomers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of UO’s educational offerings; Boomers are doing it too. In fact, 2023 is the 30th anniversary of folks in their golden years participating in the UO’s continuing education programs. And these days, community members can take part in a whole gamut of courses and groups through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UO (OLLI). 

The UO’s Continuing and Professional Education department first started its lifelong learning program as something called Learning in Retirement in 1993. The program sought to connect retired faculty members in Eugene with people in the community who wanted to continue seeking knowledge in their older years. This idea of “lifelong learning” became something of a movement in the ’90s, and in 2004 San Francisco’s Bernard Osher Foundation invited UO to join a network of their lifelong learning institutes. The foundation also provided UO with an endowment for funding. “OLLI has the longevity of being within a university structure, but also is open enough to have member volunteers come in and work with staff to really feed into what they’d like to see in the program, and it really keeps it vibrant and fresh,” says OLLI-UO program manager Todd Gauthier.

Today, OLLI-UO is one of 125 OLLI programs nationwide and offers everything from multi-week courses and one-time lectures to language conversation groups and peer-led writing workshops. One recent popular — and timely — course: Understanding Russian Cultural History. Not only does OLLI tap former UO professors, but also other experts in their fields. After joining, members have access to all of the program’s offerings — both in person and via Zoom. “People come to us because they’re interested in living in a university town or having a university experience, but without the tests or grades,” Gauthier says. Along the way, members often build friendships as well.

Member David Kolb is one such example. An emeritus philosophy professor from Bates College in Maine, Kolb and his spouse signed up for OLLI-UO when they moved to Eugene in 2006. “OLLI combines exciting intellectual and cultural content with the social opportunities to meet people who stimulate us in conversation,” Kolb says. “We only knew a few people in Oregon when we moved here, and through OLLI we made lasting friends.” 

Find out more about becoming a member at