Retiree gets a kick from classes taught by seniors

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By Vicky Gits

The fun of learning without the agony of grades, exams and papers has inspired Mary Meinig of Evergreen to take 27 courses from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the last five years, even though it means driving 19 miles to the center in Lakewood.


Ordinarily, Meinig hates the idea of commuting anywhere. Retired and 72, Meinig doesn't really have to leave home. But the camaraderie and intellectual challenge, not to mention the low price tag, keep her on the road winter, fall and spring.

The Osher LifeLong Learning Institute, or OLLI, is a nonprofit organization that was founded 15 years ago as VIVA. It has more than 1,200, 50-plus adults enrolled in classes at three Denver area locations in Golden, Highlands Ranch and Cherry Creek.

OLLI is affiliated with University College at the University of Denver and has more than 120 affiliates nationally.

The cost is $100 per term for an unlimited number of classes. There are  three eight-week terms. Classes are two hours each and meet once a week.

Most discussion classes are facilitated by OLLI members who have professional or scholarly interest in a subject. Some are lecture classes taught by retired faculty, civic leaders and independent scholars. Some preparation and book reading are required.

A typical class is 20 to 25 people, and classes are nearly always filled, said Meinig, who also has taught classes herself, such as "Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance" and "Population — An Explosive Issue." One of the outside speakers was former governor Dick Lamm.

Meinig attends classes at the OLLI West Center in Golden at the Unitarian Church, 14350 W. 32nd Ave. She is hoping to get the word out to other people who live in Evergreen about the popular courses.

"I just know that if I tried to learn something on my own by getting the book, I wouldn't get the same out of it. The facilitators work very hard to get ready," Meinig said. There are people who talk a lot and some who never say a word but say they loved the class, Meinig said.

Meinig graduated from Wellesley College and gave up on school.

"I said after I graduated from college I would never do this again. It was too hard. … I never got another degree. Then this came along 45 years later, and I'm up to my neck. It’s like the graduate education I didn't get.”

Karen Lindsay of Evergreen taught a class called "Artists of the Broadmoor Academy" in the winter term 2011. Other classes included "Genghis Khan, World Conquerer," "An Adventure in Reading Philip Roth," "The Cold War," "Opera," "Saudi Arabia: The Magic Kingdom," "The Journey of Man," and "The Life and Times of Elia Kazan in Five Films."

For information, visit www.universitycollege.du.edu/olli or call 303-871-3090.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.