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Osher Grant Will Enhance Learning for Older Adults

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March 8, 2005

Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies Institute for Learning in Retirement has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the Bernard Osher Foundation to enhance and develop new opportunities for lifelong learning. The grant is renewable for up to two additional years and qualifies the University to apply for a $1 million endowment grant in the third year or sooner.

This source of funding will enable the ILR to expand in a variety of areas. The program will be able to develop strategic long-range planning, provide full-day trainings to ILR members in the “shared inquiry method” to enhance the quality of discussions in study groups, and to offer increased financial aid to those on fixed incomes. The grant will also enable the institute to increase its membership through new marketing efforts.

“We are thrilled that we were chosen for this grant. It further energizes our mission of creating a highly participatory, stimulating, lifelong learning community,” said Barbara Reinish, director.  “We are now part of a special prestigious network that will provide us with a broad forum for sharing best practices to enrich lifelong learning throughout the country.”

Northwestern’s ILR program was one of 13 to be awarded the grant this year. Currently there are 61 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes in 23 states. Some are startups, and others such as Northwestern, Harvard, Duke, Tufts and UC Irvine have established programs.

Launched 17 years ago, at the recommendation of University Trustee Newton Minow, Northwestern’s Institute for Learning in Retirement offers a wide range of study groups where members explore such topics as literature, history, politics, science, and philosophy, through the School of Continuing Studies on the Evanston and Chicago campuses.

The Osher Foundation has been supporting institutions of higher education since 1977 through scholarship funding and integrative medicine centers at Harvard and the University of California at San Francisco.  Several years ago it began to promote educational opportunities for people 50 and older seeking to learn for the joy of learning. 

“We are delighted,” said Mary Bitterman, president of the Osher Foundation, “that Northwestern’s Institute for Learning in Retirement is becoming an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Its achievements to date are outstanding, and we look forward to the program making important contributions to the Osher Institute network that now extends from Maine to Hawaii.” 

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