OLLI is part of a nationwide (and worldwide) movement of so-called Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) for learners aged 50 and older. Across North America, there are over 500 programs, and around the world, more than 1,000 programs. There are eighteen LLIs in Massachusetts including four OLLIs located at Berkshire Community College, Brandeis University, Tufts University, and UMass Boston.
Established in 1999 with a UMass Service Endowment grant and support from the Gerontology Institute of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, the program was formerly called Life Enrichment Through Studies (LETS).
In 2008, the Osher Foundation’s generosity, matched in part by the Massachusetts Public Higher Education Endowment Incentive Program, has brought OLLI’s endowment to $1.5 million. The Foundation also gave the university a $1 million endowment for the Reentry Scholarship Program which provides scholarships for students aged 25-50 who enroll in undergraduate programs. The two endowments are the largest non-research endowment in the history of UMass Boston.
In its first decade, OLLI at UMass Boston has distinguished itself as a significant expression of the university’s public service mission. The program fills a vital niche in the Greater Boston area as the only lifelong learning institute at a public university.
Since its beginning, OLLI has sponsored 693 courses, 266 lectures, over 115 trips and theatre excursions. In addition to many U.S. destinations, the program has included journeys to Thailand, Vietnam, China, Costa Rica, Canada, Belgium and Holland. Today the program has just over 1,000 members from over 80 cities/towns in Massachusetts.