2005-2006 has been a good year for OLLI. It has been a year of change and transition during which the institute has grown and its program has become stronger. In this report, I will cover the year’s highlights and point out those achievements that have made a real difference. As I did last year, I will limit my comments to facts and not talk about the members whose unselfish efforts made our accomplishment possible. I do this because so many people contributed and I realize that I would not be able to talk about everyone. Nevertheless, on behalf of the membership, I offer my sincere thanks to all of you who generously gave of your time and talents to make OLLI a better institute.
Staff. The most significant event of this past year was the introduction of an Executive Director. OLLI has steadily grown over the past fifteen thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, supported by the part-time staff. However, the price of our success was an ever-increasing burden on the officers, the Board and the committees that managed the institute. The time had come to take the next logical step and hire a full-time professional to manage the affairs of the institute. In September, we hired Dick Chobot to fill this role. Since then Dick has surrounded us himself with a highly competent staff. Ann Hartmann took on the role of Administrator and Registrar and Dick then hired Rae Schafer as Program Assistant and Karen Nash as Financial Assistant. The staff was rounded out by Site Assistants Diana Richards and Ann Youngren. With virtually every employee learning on the job, it is a tribute to Dick and the staff that we have done as well as we have over the past year.
The Bernard Osher Foundation. In June 2005, we were advised by The Bernard Osher Foundation that, for the second year in a row, we had been awarded a $100,000 grant. In applying for the grant, we indicated that we wished to use the proceeds to recruit and hire an executive director. The grant proceeds were received in August and Dick Chobot was hired September 1, 2005. When we were officially notified of the award, the grant letter stated that our program “has performed in a highly commendable fashion.” It further stated that, “Yours is a mature program which serves as a model for others – both locally and regionally and within the larger national Osher Institute network.” Later in the year, we were notified that our program was one of a select few chosen for an early award of an Osher Foundation endowment. We were further informed that since the earnings benefit of the endowment would not be immediately available, the Osher Foundation would consider an additional $50,000 to help bridge the interim period. The Osher Foundation has indicated the possibility that the endowment could be increased in the future. It is my belief that we might make a case for a larger endowment if we present a plan outlining how we would put such funds to work.
Programs. I am particularly proud of what we accomplished with our program this past year. Carol Ferrara left OLLI last August, but not before putting in place a fine fall term. The Program Review Committee then took over and organized equally fine winter and spring terms. With the hiring of the Dick Chobot and Rae Schafer, we have reorganized the program planning process. The Program Committee is now chaired by a Board member, and each Resource Group now functions as a sub-committee. The Program Review Committee has returned to its oversight role.
Facilities. We have continued to invest in audiovisual equipment to make our learning experience as rewarding as possible. We are also to continuing to search for adequate off-site facilities for those times when popular classes are oversubscribed. Also, thanks to the continuing efforts of the Dirty Knee Club (aka Landscaping group), we have been able to make the grounds at Tallwood a showplace.
Membership. With the beginning of the spring 2006 term, OLLI membership topped 700. This is a tribute to the concerted effort of the Membership Committee to get out the message. This effort continues. The committee is available to make presentations to any group that will listen to it. They have also taped an appearance on the Forever Young Channel 10 TV show, to be aired in the fall. A highlight of the committee’s year was last November’s Town Meeting, attended by more than 100 members. Despite the committee’s successes, they still need your help. Recruiting is best done by word of mouth, so it is up to each of us to spread the word. Tell your friends about OLLI, bring them to a class and give them a brochure and catalog. Encourage them to log onto our Website and watch the “Story of OLLI.”
Hospitality. The Hospitality Committee has continued to play host whenever OLLI has held a social gathering or a special meeting. The 2005 Holiday Party was a huge success, and plans have already been made for this coming December’s party.
Nominating. The Nominating Committee has once again done a fine job recruiting qualified willing candidates to run for office this year.
Publications. The OLLI E-News has now replaced both the OLLI News and the OLLI Briefs, and quickly amassed a large and devoted readership. Its weekly news, pictures and links provide timely information covering a wide range of topics. In addition, a new edition of the Fairfax Ink will be published shortly.
Planning. The Long-term Planning Committee has been dissolved and replaced by the Planning Committee. The committee will focus on both the short-term and long-term needs of the institute.
Development. The Development Committee was responsible for winning the second Osher grant and the subsequent award of the Osher endowment. The committee also conducted the “Friends of OLLI” campaign and is grateful to the 186 OLLI members who contributed to the campaign in 2005. This represents a membership participation of more than 27% and Board participation of more than 95%. An honor roll of all 2005 contributors is displayed in the Tallwood Social Room.
Finance. The institute is in a sound financial condition. We ended 2005 more than $13,000 under budget, primarily due to the turnover of the staff and the fact that a couple of positions were open for a short while. Although 2006 expenses will be higher, we did not raise dues for the 2006 year. The committee is already doing preliminary planning for the 2007 budget.
Relationship with George Mason University. OLLI has a positive and supportive relationship with Mason. We have successfully worked with more schools and departments and have been able to entice an increasing number of professors to come and teach our classes. The receipt of the Osher grants and endowment has also gained for us new recognition and respect throughout the campus. The university is including OLLI in the planning for a new ‘University-Based Retirement Community” to be built on campus. The plans are very preliminary at this time but the initial concept includes a home for OLLI and a theater for the Theater of the First Amendment. We will keep you posted as events develop.
I believe that this covers the highlights of the year. Forgive me if I left something out. Again, thanks to all who made it possible.
President, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University