Donating a Quarter-Million
—and Counting


The members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a group of retired adults united by their love of learning, recently reached an impressive milestone.

OLLI members, 1,200 strong, attend non-credit classes taught pro bono by Mason faculty, local experts, and OLLI members while building friendships and creating community. Since founding their organization in 1991, members have also developed a remarkable tradition of philanthropy at Mason.

With their most recent gifts, OLLI’s contributions to worthy causes at Mason have now surpassed a quarter-million dollars over the past two decades. Even more impressive is what those gifts have accomplished. In 2016 OLLI celebrated its 25th anniversary with an outpouring of generosity, including these gifts:

  • more than $26,000 to help veterans and service members at Mason through the Office of Military Services;
  • $6,500 to the Early Identification Program, which assists middle school and high school students who aspire to be the first in their families to attend college;
  • $1,500 to support educational costs for a student whose parent is a Mason Facilities Management employee;
  • and nearly $20,000 directly to student scholarships.

In 2017 OLLI is also making a special gift to the University Libraries, as well as funding a scholarship to help a Northern Virginia Community College transfer student succeed at Mason.

From Modest Beginnings

Although it is affiliated with and located at Mason, OLLI is an independent non-profit organization serving the public across Northern Virginia. From modest beginnings, OLLI-Mason has grown tremendously, and now offers more than 500 classes annually at campuses in Fairfax, Reston, and Loudoun. Mason provides facilities and other logistical support, and OLLI members have special access to university activities and resources, such as the libraries. Anyone can join and take as many classes as they wish for a $425 annual fee.

Originally named the Learning in Retirement Institute, the group adopted the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute brand in 2004, joining a nationwide network that now numbers 120 such institutions. All are affiliated with universities, and endowed or supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation. In 2006 the Osher Foundation contributed $1 million to establish a long-term managed fund at Mason to support OLLI’s ongoing activities. The foundation generously added another $1 million to that fund in 2012.

Supporting Students

Charitable giving from the Friends of OLLI honors the mutually productive relationship with the university while also supporting specific programs or academic units, in thanks for the time that Mason faculty, staff, and graduate students have donated to teach courses. Scholarships funded from these donations are awarded to students selected by the units themselves, typically at $1,000 for each student.

Hundreds of Mason students have directly benefitted over the years. This year’s recipients, along with the approximately 75 Mason faculty who taught courses this past year, will be recognized by OLLI at the annual Teacher Appreciation celebration, to be held April 28 at Country Club of Fairfax.

“Through OLLI, Mason is able to reach into our community and serve a valuable role as the region’s hub for lifelong learners who enrich our university with their wisdom and generosity,” said President Cabrera, in recognition of OLLI’s 25th anniversary. “Their greatest contribution is that they champion the thrill of learning for all of our students.”

March 29, 2017 / RR