Osher at RIT celebrates 30-year milestone

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Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at RIT first opened its doors in 1987. It was originally called The Athenaeum.

The brain never retires.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at RIT (Osher at RIT) now boasts 700 active members—many of whom will celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary this October. The milestone has not gone unnoticed, simply because the active and stimulating environment for 50-plus learners has become a go-to place in the Greater Rochester community where people can continue to teach, learn and remain active in their retirement and semi-retirement years.

Osher at RIT offers 50-plus courses during fall, winter and spring and shorter summer classes with seminar lectures, where members share their life experiences and interests across a wide spectrum. There are no grades, no homework, no pressure—just plenty of feel-good camaraderie among thinkers who wish to share the sheer joy of learning.

Marie Levin, who lives in Fairport, N.Y., retired 14 years ago and a new world of lifelong learning opened when she joined Osher at RIT. She started taking classes on a wide range of subjects—science, history, art, literature and government. Eventually her interest in history grew and she soon began leading classes in ancient history.

“This was a new experience after spending 35 years in the clinical laboratory business,” said Levin. “As a member-led organization, I became a member of the Osher Council and held various leadership positions. Osher membership provided me with new opportunities and challenges, every day, all year long.”

According to Mary Bistrovich, Osher at RIT program administrator, the members are the heart and soul of the organization. “They have fascinating and diverse backgrounds, interests and careers which contribute to the incredible knowledge base that exists at Osher. Their passion for teaching and learning inspires me every day.”

The idea for the organization started in 1986 when Mark Blazey, then RIT dean of training and professional development, visited the University of Delaware and was so impressed with its model of Individual Learning in Retirement (ILR) that he returned home and presented a plan to RIT’s Board of Trustees. A year later, “The Athenaeum” was born from RIT’s original name in 1829.

Fast forward to 2006, The Athenaeum was awarded a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation and became Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at RIT—joining a network that operates on the campuses of 120 institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska.

“Our current facility, Rivers Run, has 6,500 square feet of space and five classrooms,” said Bistrovich. “We named the building The Athenaeum in honor of our roots and late last year received a $25,000 capacity-building grant from the Osher Foundation to help increase membership and continue to provide members with exceptional programs they have come to love.”

According to Levin, there are so many misconceptions about aging. “This is the opposite. These people are very, very energetic and active. To all members, a job well done. Happy 30th anniversary Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at RIT.”

To learn more

The 30th anniversary celebration of Osher at RIT will be Oct. 20 at Locust Hill Country Club. For more information, contact osher.info@rit.edu.