University receives $1 million gift for lifelong learning programs


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3:08 p.m., June 3, 2010----The University of Delaware has received a $1 million endowment gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation for lifelong learning programs offered through the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies. Within the next year, a second $1 million gift will be awarded.

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These funds will be used by the University to maintain and expand its existing Academies of Lifelong Learning in Wilmington and Lewes, and add a new program in Dover. To reflect their affiliation with the national network of lifelong learning organizations, the academies have changed their names to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at University of Delaware in Wilmington, Dover, and Lewes.

"The University of Delaware is thrilled to receive these gifts, and we're deeply grateful to The Bernard Osher Foundation," said UD President Patrick Harker. "In supporting the continuation and expansion of the University's lifelong learning programs -- programs operating in each county -- these endowments also support the University's mission to serve 'Delaware first.'"

Since 2001, The Bernard Osher Foundation has been involved in supporting lifelong learning programs across the U.S., and there are now Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes in all 50 states. Founded by noted businessman and philanthropist Bernard Osher, the Foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support of higher education and the arts. Osher is listed among's 50 top American philanthropists.

"We are delighted to provide this permanent support for a program that delivers such a diverse array of enriching educational offerings to seasoned adults in the state of Delaware," said Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman. "With an exceptional staff and a remarkable corps of volunteers, the University of Delaware has developed an outstanding lifelong learning program that serves as a model for older adult education initiatives across the country."

UD's Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are structured as learning cooperatives with support from the University of Delaware. Volunteer members and committees develop the curriculum, teach the courses, and plan extracurricular activities.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes across the country are diverse in their structure and offerings, but they share these core features: noncredit educational programs specifically developed for adults aged 50 and older; university connection and support; robust volunteer leadership and sound organizational structure; and a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses. Each Osher Institute reflects the culture of its own university and its learning community.

Partnering with the network of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes will allow the UD lifelong learning programs to take advantage of online resources, networking opportunities, attend Institute conferences, and share best practices with their counterparts all over the country.

"The University of Delaware is proud of its history as one of the earliest and largest lifelong learning programs in the country," says Jim Broomall, assistant provost for the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies. "Partnering with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes enables the University to join a network that includes universities like Johns Hopkins and UCLA. While each program shares the resources of the network, its uniqueness is defined by its curriculum, volunteer instructors, and membership."

UD's lifelong learning program on the Wilmington Campus was founded in 1979 through the efforts of then-UD President E. A. Trabant and Continuing Education director John A. Murray. The Southern Delaware program was established in 1989. Most recently, a Dover program has been added, set to begin classes in September 2010 at the Modern Maturity Center.

In 2009, the University received an initial grant of $100,000 from The Bernard Osher Foundation for the University's existing lifelong learning programs, the Wilmington Academy of Lifelong Learning and the Southern Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning in Lewes. Additionally, a start-up grant of $25,000 was designated for the new lifelong learning program in Dover.