Dorchester Residents Enjoy the Richness of OLLI’s Offerings at UMass Boston

McCormack Graduate School | January 29, 2015
Dorchester Residents Enjoy the Richness of OLLI’s Offerings at UMass Boston

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is simply a gem and I’m thrilled to see it thriving in Dorchester and beyond.

Professors at UMass Boston  teach on some pretty esoteric topics, but “The Joys and Challenges of Grandparenting”?

No, the undergrads are not demonstrating unusual foresight. This class, taught by Emmy Rainwalker, a counselor in private practice in Dorchester, is aimed at the hundreds of senior citizens who attend and, in many cases, teach classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UMass Boston's McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

Part of a national network of 119 similar organizations in every state, the OLLI program enriches the intellectual, social, and cultural lives of those 50 or older without the pressures of the typical university environment. Nearly 1,200 seniors enroll in courses with no tests, no papers, and no degrees.

With 106 members, Dorchester ranks second to Quincy as the neighborhood with the most OLLI members. In fact, at least a dozen Dorchester residents are volunteering this spring as course facilitators.

Among the veteran Dorchester facilitators is Helena Zubrin, who continues her weekly “Working with Watercolor” series. Other Dorchester residents teach popular language courses including Judy Planchon’s “Intermediate French Conversation through Cinema” series.

Jones Hill’s resident Irene L. Roman has a strong following for both her “Basic Italian II” and “Introduction to Italy and Italian Culture.” This spring she will also co-lead a Classical Studies in Italy trip through Rome, Umbria, and Tuscany departing in late April. Another Jones Hill member, cable TV host, and theatre columnist John Joseph Fahey continues his American Literature series with “Three Classics of Southern Literature,” focusing on Carson McCullers and Zora Neale Huston. Columbia Point’s Bill Valentine leads his “Poetry ALIVE” class that explores late 20th century poets.

From the Cedar Grove neighborhood, Robert P. Dunford, a 38-year veteran of the Boston Police force and former commanding officer of the Boston Police Academy, teaches a sequel to “The Police, the Constitution, and the Citizen.”

Other courses led by Dorchester residents include Franca Burtness-Adams’ “In a Changing World, What Role Do I Play? Our Roles in Social Justice”; Lynn Holmgren’s” Reading and Writing about the Mother/Daughter Relationship”; Aurobinda Mahapatra’s “Kashmir Conflict: Dimensions, Costs and Peace Prospects”; and Walt Hagenbuch’s videoconferences on “Physics without Fear.”

Finally, Christopher Harding, a journalist with the Dorchester Reporter, will present two videoconferences that may be accessed in Hingham, Plymouth, and Nantucket on  Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.

In addition, OLLI offers approximately 40 lunchtime lectures known as brown bag presentations. Among the upcoming brown bags seminars taught by Dorchester residents are a storytelling series, “Show and Tell” by Ashmont’s Willie Pleasants, “The World of Cheese” by Genevieve Forde (who is also teaching a few other food-related courses), Rita LaRosa Loud’s “Flexible and Strong,” and Jeff Klein’s “The Making of the Middle East.”

“It’s great to see Dorchester residents not only taking advantage of the many benefits of an OLLI membership but serving as facilitators as well,” notes Barbara Graceffa, McCormack Graduate School’s director of communications. “The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is simply a gem and I’m thrilled to see it thriving in Dorchester and beyond.”


Courses start in late February or early March. For information on enrollment, please visit, or call 617.287.7312 to request a catalog. Full or partial scholarships may be available for eligible students.


This story was rewritten with permission from Christopher Harding, a reporter with the Dorchester Reporter.

Tags: gerontology , mccormack graduate school , olli

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