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You're never too old to learn

Last modified: 7/8/2012 12:00:00 AM
Joan Davis is the new chairperson of the Curriculum Committee for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute chapter in Concord. There are 12 volunteers on her committee whose job it is to recruit volunteer presenters for the OLLI program.

OLLI is a nationwide continuing education program for seniors founded by Bernard Osher, who made his fortunes in California. Osher believes that one is never too old to learn, and that learning should be fun. To these ends he gives start-up money ($100,000) to colleges to establish continuing education programs. After five years, if a program is successful, it's chapter becomes eligible to apply for a $1,000,000 grant to help keep the program going. The money is used to support a facility, staff and office expenses. Osher's goal is to see OLLI in all 50 states.

Program presenters are all volunteers - retired teachers, musicians, artists, actors, writers, naturalists, athletes - willing to share their skills and interests with their peers.

Annual membership in OLLI costs $30. Some programs are free to members; some charge a modest fee. Class lengths vary from one-time sessions to several weeks.

OLLI in New Hampshire now takes place in five locations: Concord, Manchester, Claremont, Conway and Portsmouth. Members may attend classes at any of the locations. Catalogs listing the current program offerings are published twice a year.

New presenters are always welcome. You don't have to have been a teacher. If you have a skill, passion or interest you'd be willing to share, you are needed.

'We strive for variety in our programs,' Davis said. 'We're very interested in people from other countries and other cultures to round out our curriculum.'

If you would consider taking part in this venture or have someone you'd recommend for it, call Granite State College and ask for OLLI.

The Fall catalog will soon be out. Some of the 36 courses to be offered this fall include Storytelling in Rhythm and Rhyme; Dressing the Part from Martha to Michelle, Lesser Known Women of the Hebrew Bible - Good Girls, Bad Girls and In Between; Hoit Road Marsh and Hutchinson Forest; Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Women in New Hampshire Prisons); Places to Go and Things to See in the United States.

Davis believes strongly in the value of education for the young and the old. She taught fifth-graders at Walker School for 21 years. After her husband died, she felt a need to 're-invent herself.' A friend introduced her to OLLI classes. She took part in several, then graduated to the curriculum committee and now is their chairwoman. She sings with the Song Weavers and the Song Healers and is a guide at the Franklin Pierce House.

'We have a great group of volunteers at the Pierce House,' Davis said. 'They are fun to work with.'

Always a teacher, Davis particularly enjoys the school groups that come to learn about New Hampshire's only president. People come from all over this country and other countries. There are visitors who come here because their goal is to visit the homes of all our presidents,' Davis said.

Reports on the life of Franklin Pierce have been controversial and short on facts.

When guiding tours, Davis says she uses the phrases 'I believe' and 'I've been told' often to get around some of the confusion. She recommends the biography of Franklin Pierce by Peter Wallner for thorough research.

Davis has in fact in her own words, re-invented herself and vastly expanded her horizons.

Right now she's looking forward to the fall semester at OLLI.


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