• Sharon Kinden, second from left, with a few Osher@Mizzou friends during an instructor appreciation banquet.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Missouri (Osher@Mizzou) has received its first legacy gift thanks to Sharon Kinden, who has included the organization in her estate plan.

“Learning and teaching have always played a major role in my life,” says Kinden. Growing up in rural South Dakota, Kinden attended a one-room schoolhouse where for eight years she was the only student in her grade. “By the eighth grade, the teacher didn’t know what to do with my boundless energy, so I ‘taught’ two Kindergarten students.”

She says a college education was the best gift her father ever gave her. After majoring in speech and drama education at South Dakota State University, Kinden taught in public schools in several states. In 1969, she moved to Columbia with her husband, Darrell “Skip” Kinden, who had been admitted to MU’s Ph.D. program in plant pathology and would go on to start the MU College of Veterinary Medicine’s electron microscope facility.

Kinden taught at West Junior High in Columbia for six years before embarking on a successful 30-year career in real estate sales. In 2002, she started taking classes at MU Lifespan Learning (which was renamed the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Missouri in 2005). Later she started teaching at Osher herself. In her “Travels With Sharon” classes, she incorporated photos from exotic destinations in the dozens of countries she has visited. She volunteered as secretary of Osher@Mizzou’s advisory council for several years. She continues to coordinate the Osher Travel Club and attends four to six classes on various topics each session.

Of her decision to include Osher@Mizzou in her estate plan, she says, “My late husband was noted for his generosity and always insisted that, as God richly blessed us, it was an ‘opportunity, not an obligation’ to share those blessings.”

When the Missouri River flooded in 1993, Kinden said she would do her part and help fill sandbags, but Skip objected. “He declared my allergies and medical aversion to heat and high humidity would not allow that and I should do what I did best—write a check!”

That same year, Skip was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and he died in 1997. “During his illness, as we established a trust and wrote our wills, it became obvious I would carry on his spiritual gift of writing checks to charities and entities close to our hearts,” Kinden said.

“Sharon is a wonderful example of how important Osher members and volunteers are to this vital continuing education program for adults aged 50-plus, whether they’re volunteering their time or donating to the program,” said Jennifer Erickson, director of Osher@Mizzou. “I hope that others will be inspired by Sharon’s example and help ensure that Osher@Mizzou continues to provide noncredit classes and other educational, cultural and social opportunities to the mid-Missouri community, and beyond, all for the joy of learning.”