A $100,000 grant means more than just a name change for the Temple Association of Retired Persons.
The Temple University lifelong learning organization was recently awarded a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, a San Francisco entity named for a Jewish resident of that city and dedicated to the preservation of lifelong learning programs. In 2006, Forbesranked Osher, a businessman and philanthropist, the world's 746th richest person.
Soon to be known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Temple University — or OLLI at Temple — the program is one of the nation's oldest, begun in 1976.
Receiving the grant was "a tremendous validation of the hard work our volunteers have put in over the past 33 years," said director William Parshall.
He added that most of the money will be used to step up the program's marketing and increase the quality of its publications, although he expects up to 15 percent to be used for operational expenses.
"Even when the program hasn't run in the black, the university has picked up our operational deficits," he noted. "The Osher grant allows us to keep our membership dues affordable (currently, at $225 per year), and it allows people to go to as many classes a year as they want."
Temple's program offers about 140 classes throughout the year to more than 700 members. Participants are also allowed to sit in on undergraduate courses where room is available.
After certain benchmarks are met, Osher recipients may apply for further grant opportunities, the first of which Parshall said they hope to apply for by the beginning of 2009.
While the Osher Foundation gets dozens of inquiry letters every month about its grants, senior program officer David Blazevich said that there were many good reasons the group singled out Temple.
"They had a very strong lifelong learning program that had been there for many years," he said. "It had a very enthusiastic and engaged membership, and volunteer leadership.
"The school is, of course, excellent, and we were very interested in serving the people of Philadelphia itself."
Blazevich said that Osher programs benefit communities as a whole, not just seniors. "What we see as a real social benefit in the programs are that they provide a place for seasoned adults to gather in communities of learning around academically challenging, intellectually stimulating topics that keep them engaged with each other and with the larger world in a way that's quite meaningful."