UMass Boston

It all began in 1999...

Group picture of people meeting for the first time to organize a lifelong learning group at UMass Boston.


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.

A Vision Becomes Reality

Supported by Frank Caro, director of the Gerontology Institute, Wichian Rojanawon (LETS founding member/OLLI director) set out to establish a plan and working group charged with creating a learning-in-retirement program on the UMass Boston campus. The Elderhostel Institute Network became an early supporter and partner with this endeavor, and many working group members and soon-to-be founding LETS members and leaders were graduates and volunteers with the Gerontology Manning Certificate Program. On September 17, 1998, the planning committee was formed (pictured above), and a year later, with $3,000 from the UMass Public Service Endowment Grant, Life Enrichment Transition Studies (LETS) began offering courses.

In 2008, the Osher Foundation’s generosity, matched in part by the Massachusetts Public Higher Education Endowment Incentive Program, 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 over the age of 25 who enroll in undergraduate programs. OLLI at UMass Boston was honored with another $1 million gift from the Osher Foundation in 2012 as it worked to build and sustain a membership of over 1,000 older adults.

Over the past two decades, 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.

Friends of OLLI

A contribution of any size is a gift of knowledge and makes a big difference in the lives of the program and our members.
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