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September 1, 2006

One Year Anniversary

Heads up, members; we have an anniversary to celebrate!

Dr. Richard Chobot, OLLI’s Executive Director, has been with us one year.

Dick can best be described as the engine that powers all OLLI activities. Board members, committee chairs, office staff, members, instructors and people outside the institute look to him for information, for guidance, for ideas, and to help us make connections. We hired him for that and we hired him exactly a year ago.

It’s been a learning year for all of us. Dick’s arrival coincided with the departure of three key staff members, and his new job became somewhat like sending someone into a darkened closet and asking him to reorganize it. It took some time, but when Dick emerged, he had developed an able staff who now work as a team and keep OLLI running like clockwork. They note his willingness to share his experience and expertise and allude to the respect, resources and encouragement he shows them.

So what exactly has our “hired man” done for us, the members, for the last year? My research uncovered a lot more than I can possibly include here. It’s like “what you see is what you get” plus “you also get what you don’t see.”

Well, you see him. Dick is on site from early morning until early evening, unless he must meet with someone at GMU, or someone about developing a class, or someone who might have a lead on an overflow site for our popular classes. If you don’t know who Dick is, you’re not drinking enough coffee in the social room.

When he’s in his office, next to TA-2, he’s on the phone, the computer or meeting with a department chair. Still, he’ll see you through the window and will wave you in; his door is always open. He attends many meetings and contributes his creative ideas. He has a long view of OLLI’s future and a broad view of OLLI’s future influence in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

His positive response to Mason and a former OLLI president who requested our participation in a pilot program was swift, and the initial Loudoun classes will begin in spring 2007.

The structure of the model Dick designed for program development has increased member involvement in the process, resulting in many new ideas and course offerings. Working with the program committee, he’s had a heavy hand in developing the excellent summer and fall programs at both Tallwood and Reston. For Reston folks, he spearheaded the new Reston resource group that will work on better classes at Lake Anne and he teamed up with Reston founder Bob Simon to create a very successful series of afternoon classes this summer.

Friday programming at Tallwood is Dick’s idea with impromptu scheduling of last minute classes and activities. Expanded use of our facility with lighter fare allows members a time to lift their heads from their heavy reading and enjoy perhaps a film or a performance.

Dick is responsible for infrastructure, for making sure equipment works and staff knows how to make it work. Dick is always sensitive to our Mason workers, who see that our house is clean and well maintained and a “thank you” party he hosted for them has resulted in an even better relationship with these unseen, early morning workers.

On the money side, Dick is a facilitator for the finance committee and he must work with that committee in budgeting and in overseeing spending. He has provided the development committee with a comprehensive plan to identify and cultivate fund-raising sources and is working with them to implement it.

Among others, Dick is now working on the following diverse projects:

  • Evaluation of classroom equipment;
  • Comprehensive review of OLLI insurance coverage;
  • Consideration of purchase of defibrillators;
  • Future overnight travel programs; and
  • A class on how to teach an OLLI class.

He is our voice to the community: recently a call came in from a producer of a far-reaching TV station. They were looking for information about LLIs. Dick’s intelligent and comprehensive responses to questions evidently led that producer to invite him and a member to participate in a TV show about retired senior educational opportunities.

Our ED is good for OLLI, but Dick Chobot typically would say, “OLLI is good for me.” Happy anniversary, Dick!

Debbie Halverson
President, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University

 
 

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