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Lifelong learning program to receive $100,000 grant

Submitted by Carla Browning
Phone: (907) 474-7778


August 1, 2005

When English teacher Marlys Henderson retired in 1993 after working in the Fairbanks North Star Borough school district for 30 years, she wasn't sure what she would do with her newly-found free time. In addition to teaching, she had also been involved in boards and commissions as part of her professional life and was looking for an activity that would provoke her intellect.

"I wondered what I would do to fill the void in my life," said Henderson. "The Alaska Lifelong Learning program helped fill that void."

The program may help other older adults keep busy thanks to a $100,000 grant just received from the Bernard Osher Foundation. Barbara Lando, the Fairbanks program coordinator, was delighted that the program was selected.

"The most surprising thing is that they contacted us," said Lando. "The foundation was looking for good programs that could become better and also considered geographical diversity. We fit the bill on both counts because it's a small program, and the only program of this type in Alaska."

The program is part of the UAF Summer Sessions. Now that the Osher Foundation has committed monies for the first year, the program may be considered for a second-year grant or even a permanent endowment. This year's award helps ensure stability and allows for outreach to other communities that want to start programs of their own.

"We're often contacted by organizations around the state about how to start similar programs," said Lando. "The Osher grant will allow us to help others get started."

Henderson says many of her friends around the state would also like to see similar programs in their area. She especially likes the variety depending on the class she chooses, she's a student of oceanography, philosophy or contra dancing. These are courses she probably wouldn't have taken through traditional university course offerings.

"I earned my masters degree after I retired and I was 60 then," Henderson said. "I enjoyed classes with younger students and found it stimulating, but there's also something to be said for taking classes with your peers."

The program serves the Interior's older adult (50+) population through a curriculum developed by the members according to their needs or interests.

Classes are taught by volunteers and include UAF or other instructors with specialized expertise. Topics include art, computer technology, current events, health, history, literature, music and philosophy. Students meet for classes or study groups, but there are no tests or grades.

The program joins UC Davis, UC Berkeley and others who have benefited from the Bernard Osher Foundation, a charitable foundation established in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a businessman and community leader.

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