Dick Harp is our OLLI director, and he shared a special message with us about a historic milestone. Save the date — May 23 — for a memorable time with this unique group!
It’s hard to believe that May 23 is the date of our 50th OLLI social. I can’t help but reminisce about all the socials we have enjoyed and the wonderful people we have met over the years.
We received the inspiration for these events in 1999 when we hosted 30 members of our program, then called Golden University. We asked them what they, as seniors, would like to receive from our program. Many of them mentioned they would like to take classes with fellow seniors as they were uncomfortable sitting in a class with younger people. The most important issue they brought up was a need to socialize with other seniors in a friendly environment on a regular basis. There were widows and widowers in this group and they were uncomfortable going out by themselves.
At the end of the evening, then-KSU President Dr. Betty Siegel, Dean Barbara S. Calhoun, my wife, Patty, and I stood by the exit door and thanked everyone for coming. One woman was obviously waiting to be the last person to leave. As she approached us, I extended my hand and thanked her for coming. She said she wanted to thank us for giving her the first reason, since her husband passed away, to get dressed and leave her house.
I told Dr. Siegel we would find donors and establish a program for seniors that would offer socials, including entertainment and a good meal, at a reasonable price. We also established our OLLI Club Room where our members enjoy various activities and make new friends.
I have never believed in the theory of “build it and they will come.” The best approach is to ask people what they want and then provide those desired programs. Credit has to be given to the aforementioned group for their many suggestions. We designed our offerings in accordance with their ideas which has resulted in a successful program comprised of classes and socials.
Much credit has to be given to Dean Calhoun for her support and the wonderful people who have contributed to the implementation of our program. We had 478 enrollees in 1999 which included classes and socials. We added our Donuts & Notes event in 2001 and it has become an annual favorite. Our socials have grown from 30 to 225-250 people per event. Our class enrollments reached an all-time high of 1,000 for the fourth quarter of 2015. All of this is because we asked our members what they wanted and did our best to provide it.
We are always open to suggestions as to how we might improve our OLLI. We might not be able to implement everything you suggest, but we are interested in your comments and feedback.
Looking back on the many socials we’ve had brings back memories of fun times, good food and enjoyable entertainment — plus the memories of those brave enough to don costumes and add to the enjoyment of the evening. I personally treasure the many friends I have made over the years and the wonderful people I have met.
We hope the socials have provided much pleasure for all our members. We will strive to continue these events.
Hope to see you in class soon.