Campus: Sonoma State University -- April 07, 2003

Sonoma State Earns First $1 Million Endowment In State for Lifelong Learning Institute Funded By Osher

Sonoma State University's Lifelong Learning Institute announced today it has become the first state-wide recipient of a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Sonoma State's successful LLI program, begun two years ago, prompted the Osher Foundation to seed the program throughout the country. This is the first million-dollar grant made by the Osher Foundation in California. It offers a similiar endowment to universities that can establish successful LLI's on their campuses.

Representatives from 18 universities and colleges -- 15 from California alone -- are meeting at Sonoma State University through April 8 to coordinate their efforts and inaugurate an Osher Lifelong Learning education network throughout the state and nation.

Each has received smaller ($100,000 a year for three years) Osher Foundation grants to begin Lifelong Learning Institutes at their campuses.

The SSU conference is designed to share models and implementations plans including Sonoma State's highly successful LLI program.

Topics during the conference include creating a fundraising program, faculty and curriculum, marketing and recruitment, budget, finance, and registration.

The California State University campuses being funded by the Osher Foundation include California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, Hayward, San Jose, Dominguez Hills, San Bernardino, Fullerton, San Francisco and Sonoma.

The University of California campuses include Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Davis, San Francisco, Irvine and Riverside.

The out-of-state campuses are the University of Southern Maine, University of Vermont and the University of Hawaii.

A role model for the latest tidal wave in senior education is the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco, which for the past quarter century has offered programs in everything from classics to computing for retirement-age adults.

Sonoma State modeled its program on the Fromm Institute and offers eight-week courses, promising "no grades, no homework." Over 300 students attend each semester. The average age of an LLI student at Sonoma is 69 and most have college degrees.

The Osher Foundation began funding LLLI's several years ago to promote education for people "50 or better" who want to return to school "for the love of learning." The first Osher grantee was the University of Southern Maine in the late '90s in Osher¹s home state.

For more information on the kinds of curriculum offered, faculty, and students, and more about the Osher Foundation, contact the following:

Lou Miller, executive director, Sonoma State Lifelong Learning Institute, (707) 664-3189.

Jean Wasp, Media Relations, Sonoma State University, (707) 664-2057.
Steven Dobbs, executive vice president, Osher Foundation. (415) 479-4783.
Sonoma State University's Lifelong Learning web site can be found at

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