Lifelong Learning


The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s fall term course catalog offers more than 50 pages of opportunities. For those who like learning for learning’s sake, opening it and reading through its full-color pages feels like shopping spree.

OLLI, at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, is part of the Bernard Osher Foundation’s nationwide network of adult learning programs. At USCB, it offers educational programs for people in the Lowcountry ages 50 and older — a fast-growing population in Beaufort County. The institute’s membership is 1,400 and counting; over three semesters last year, more than 410 courses focused on topics ranging from science, history, art, computers, literature and health. Lois McCue, the chairwoman of the Hilton Head Island curriculum committee, said OLLI offers classes in about 20 categories, all taught by volunteers.

“We try to find instructors for as many of those categories as we can,” McCue said, offering at least 50 percent new programs each term. Before retiring to Hilton Head, she was an educator in New Jersey, and she said she is impressed with the number of Lowcountry residents willing to give their time and talent to the community. “In this area, there are so many talented people who are so willing to share.”

olli3OLLI finds most of its instructors through committee member connections, but often area residents contact OLLI because they are interesting in teaching.

“Teaching a class at Osher gives me a good reason to do what I love to do,” said Marie McClune, who worked as a geologist, environmental educator and high school science teacher before retiring to the Lowcountry. She is a self-proclaimed lifelong learner and took a class at OLLI before volunteering to teach. McClune also serves on OLLI’s Hilton Head curriculum committee, as docent at the Coastal Discovery Museum, and on the board of the Lowcountry Master Naturalist Association.

“The teacher in me loves to get and share information,” she said.

Ron Roth, an OLLI art and history instructor, is a former museum director and art curator. “During my professional life, I was busy in administration and didn’t have time to lecture or teach,” he said. This fall, he is teaching classes on graffiti and street art, the Charleston Renaissance and Winnie the Pooh.

“OLLI members are at a relaxed time in life and have time to think about things they may not have considered before,” he said. His classes are filled with people who want to be there, he said, and that engagement ensures that class discussions lively and thought-provoking.

“People come here and do things they’ve always wanted to do and passions they never had time to pursue,” said Andrea Sisino, who has served as the OLLI director for seven years. She said most members OLLI are highly active, travel frequently, and engage in a variety of programs, most of which are offered as one-time sessions to accommodate their busy lifestyles.

The wide array of classes offered was what attracted Diane Surrusco and her husband to the organization. They’ve been members and volunteers for six years and take an average of about 25 classes a semester.

“It keeps our brains alert and alive,” she said. “You can take a class on music, gardening, baseball, history — and the instructors come from all walks of life.”


OLLI is growing to accommodate the area’s booming population. There is a capital campaign underway to add an OLLI building at USCB’s Hilton Head Island Gateway campus in greater Bluffton. The group also is getting its own space in the new USCB hospitality center on Hilton Head. When the building opens in 2018, OLLI will have a classroom with more than 100 seats and offices, as well as access to the café and other amenities on campus. Being located in the new hospitality center will give the group the chance to bring in chefs and nutrition experts to teach classes.

OLLI members have access to more than 400 courses a year offered in Beaufort and Bluffton and on Hilton Head, as well as access to USCB’s campus libraries, a university parking pass and free summer classes. Annual OLLI membership is $40. Class fees range from $12 to $20; $120 gets you access to unlimited classes. To get a copy of the course catalog, go to any OLLI office location or go to