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U-M community learning program receives $1 million endowment gift


ANN ARBOR, Mich - The University of Michigan Geriatrics Center has received a $1 million gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation to support a community program for older adults. The gift will establish an endowment to sustain the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at U-M, which offers a variety of educational opportunities for area residents in or near retirement.

The endowment gift follows two years of annual $100,000 grants from the Osher Foundation to expand programming, staff, equipment and membership of the institute. Previously known as the “Learning in Retirement” program, the name was changed in 2006 to reflect the foundation’s support.

Established in 1987 by a small group of Geriatrics Center social workers and volunteers, the program now has more than 1,000 members. Volunteers make up the institute’s 17-member board of directors and 30-member curriculum committee, who work closely with Geriatrics Center staff. Last semester, more than 100 mini-courses, study groups and lectures were offered, including the popular “Distinguished Lecture Series.” An expanding Midwest travel program and occasional special events round out the curriculum.

“The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at U-M exemplifies the type of quality programming that can be accomplished with a dedicated group of community volunteers working with the support of the university” noted Dr. Jeffrey Halter, director of the U-M Geriatrics Center. “The endowment gift recognizes this quality and helps to ensure that educational offerings for retirement-age adults will continue well into the future.”

Darlene Racz, Geriatrics Center associate director for Social Work and Community Programs, commended the work of the volunteers spearheading the program. “This gift recognizes the high quality of the organization and the great progress the group has made over the past several years,” she noted.

“Foundation officials were especially impressed with our innovative Asian Outreach Program and our collaborations with the university’s Center for Chinese Studies, the Center for Afro-American and African Studies, and the American Culture Program,” remarked the institute’s past president and board member Albert Gourdji.

David Blazevich, senior program officer of the Osher Foundation, congratulated the U-M volunteers for an outstanding program. “The progress the institute has made since receiving its initial grant support has been exceptional, and we are very pleased to provide this permanent support in recognition of such excellence,” he noted.
Under the foundation’s rules, the U-M institute will be eligible to apply for a second million-dollar endowment next year.

The University of Michigan Geriatrics Center is a national leader in aging research and clinical care for older adults, as well as in the training of health professionals in the special needs of the elderly population. The center also has a strong mission of community service, providing social, cultural and educational programming through the Turner Senior Resource Center in Ann Arbor.

The Osher Foundation sponsors lifelong learning institutes at 119 colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii. Created in 1977 by businessman Bernard Osher, the foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts.


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