After nearly 20 years as our OLLI director, Dick Harp has announced his retirement. He took a moment to reflect on an amazing ride of life-changing and enriching experiences.
After much thought, and a great deal of emotion, I have decided to retire from our OLLI program and KSU. What a wonderful privilege it has been to be part of the finest continuing education program in the country and have had the opportunity to start what is now our OLLI program. I enjoyed many years in the banking industry, but the enjoyment and satisfaction of being involved with KSU was much greater. It provided the opportunity to directly help seniors and improve their lives. I will greatly miss being part of it and all of the friends I have made over the last 19 years.
Our previous program, “Senior University,” was very small with only a handful of students. Our Dean, Barbara Calhoun, asked me to consider helping to revive the program. We hosted an event for the few students we had and asked for suggestions for improving our seniors’ program. After the reception, the last woman to leave said, “Thank you for giving me the first excuse in eight months since my husband died to get dressed and get out of the house.”
I made a commitment then and there to do everything we could to improve the lives of seniors.
A Chance Connection
The affiliation with OLLI happened accidentally. I was on a plane and read a magazine article about the Osher Foundation. They were soliciting applications from colleges and universities that wanted to start a program to benefit seniors. After contacting the Osher Foundation, they sent us an application, which we completed and submitted. We received the wonderful news that we were accepted into the program and received our initial grant of $100,000. Our name changed to “Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.” The Foundation is named after Bernard Osher, the philanthropist who funded the Foundation with millions of his own funds. Several months later, we received another $100,000 grant. A year later, the Foundation stated they liked what we were doing and provided a million dollar endowment for the program. A second unsolicited million-dollar endowment followed a year later. We were ecstatic! Those Osher Foundation gifts enabled us to provide a computer lab for our members, equip the OLLI Suite and Club Room and helped subsidize our program, which keeps a low membership cost. We started with six courses and 50 students. Now, we average more than 400 courses and serve over 3,400 students annually.
I feel comfortable about retiring now for several reasons. The program will be in the capable hands of Pat Walker, and it’s doing well and continues to grow. There are many stories of lives that have been touched. I want to thank everyone for the opportunity I have enjoyed being part of this program. What a wonderful experience it has been. I will miss the many friendships, everyone enjoying themselves at the socials, and the wonderful KSU people that helped us offer our programs. Your OLLI program will continue to grow and provide all members the opportunity to improve their lives.