About the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Philanthropist Bernard Osher visits
OLLI-UHM in July 2010

Philanthropist Bernard Osher visits
OLLI-UHM in July 2010

In 1996-97, a group of community elders, retired professors, and University of Hawai'i at Mānoa administrators established the Academy for Lifelong Learning (ALL) with a mission to strengthen connections between the university and the community, and promote lifelong learning, leadership, and community service for older learners. Rebecca Goodman, a gerontologist, project coordinator, and co-writer for the PBS series, Growing Old in a New Age (produced by the UHM Center on Aging, 1993 broadcast) was named director of the new ALL program in 1997.

In Fall 2002, five years after its launch, ALL successfully applied to The Bernard Osher Foundation for grant support (totaling $300,000 during a three-year initiation cycle). Renamed in Spring 2003 to honor San Francisco philanthropist Bernard Osher, ALL became the UH Mānoa Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI-UHM), part of a national network of more than 100 university-based lifelong learning programs in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

In 2004, OLLI-UHM received the national MindAlert Award for Outstanding Innovative Older Adult Learning Program from the MetLife Foundation and the American Society on Aging (ASA). The award recognizes innovations in promoting cognitive function in later life. In their review of the OLLI-UHM program, judges cited the program's adaptation of The Illuminated Life workshop developed by Dr. Abe Arkoff (Professor Emeritus, UHM Psychology) for its outstanding innovation, research applications, demonstration of effectiveness, attention to diverse audiences, and potential for replication in other lifelong learning programs.

In November 2005, OLLI-UHM received its first $1 million endowment gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation to support and sustain educational programming for older residents of Honolulu.  Endowment awards are based on demonstrated program success and evidence of sustainability. In announcing the award, Dr. Mary Bitterman, President of The Osher Foundation, called the OLLI-UHM an "outstanding model of lifelong learning.” In 2006, OLLI-UHM received a second and unsolicited $1 million endowment based on demonstrated program success, strong evidence of sustainability, and increasing local demand for services.

In 2016, the 13th year of operation as an OLLI program and 20th since the launching of ALL, the OLLI-UHM has nearly 1,000 members and is under the sponsorship of the College of Social Sciences. OLLI-UHM provides an ever-expanding array of courses, workshops, creative writing and poetry workshops, film series, arts events, museum tours, service projects, and more.