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Osher Institute offers classes for 'seasoned adults'


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013

Story source:

Lucille Salerno, 573-884-5927

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Students find no tests, no homework and no pressure when the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute kicks off its fall semester on Sept. 9.

Classes on subjects as varied as Einstein to bodice-ripping romance novels appeal to “seasoned adults,” which Lucille Salerno refers to as the “academy of the willing.”

Salerno is continuing education director of the University of Missouri Extension’s Osher program, which is designed to stimulate the minds of “the growing population of gray hairs.”

Salerno, a retired MU professor, and a staff of part-time employees and volunteers provide low-cost continued learning opportunities for the 50-plus crowds at the Stephens Lake Activity Center. Volunteers teach on thought-provoking subjects as varied as the students themselves, who revel in the joy of learning

There are practical subjects such as estate planning and conversational French and Spanish in addition to loftier topics such as the popular Potpourri of Critical Thinking, said assistant director Sonya Carney.

Students may sign up to learn about mahjong, a Chinese game that provides cognitive challenges, or participate in discussions after watching newly released movies at the Friday Film Festival. Music lovers will find classes on American musicians such as Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and there is a cluster of writing and literary courses.

“I can always find something of interest,” said Bob Hibbs, who is a student, teacher, volunteer and advisory council member. Hibbs and employee Till Rosenberger provide computer assistance and training to those wanting to learn Internet skills.

Working and retired community professionals volunteer to teach the flexible classes. Most classes and events are held during the day because Osher’s building is provided by the city of Columbia and is used for other events during the evening.

While classes are geared to those 50 and older, all ages are welcome, said employee Sarah Ginter-Novinger, who first visited the center as an under-50 participant who wanted to brush up on her foreign language skills.

There are several changes in the works for the center. This year, students have the option of a $240 annual membership that allows them to take as many classes as they wish. The single-pay option continues to be available. Members also are eligible for a library card at MU libraries. “Osher is the best kept secret in Columbia and the annual membership is the best value in Columbia,” Hibbs said.

The program will move at the end of the year to a new activity center at the city’s Waters-Moss Wildlife Area off Old Highway 63 between Stadium Blvd. and Grindstone Parkway. The main administrative office will be in Whitten Hall on Hitt St., north of the Memorial Union on the MU campus.

Class information is available for download at

About the Bernard Osher Foundation

The foundation supports 117 lifelong learning programs on university and college campuses across the country. Non-credit educational programs for adults 50 and older are offered through a collaboration of volunteers and university connections.

The foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a business and community leader, to improve quality of life through support of higher education and the arts.