About OLLI

  • Participate in any of OLLI’s programs, from Bach to Biology, Hemingway to History, and everything in between, and see the world with a fresh perspective.
  • Spend time in our academic and spiritual classes learning more about history, philosophy, literature, religion, science, math, psychology, and much more.
  • Take day trips in the greater community and discover new places, sights, and history.
  • Visit backstage at the art centers of Grand Rapids and stay for the performances.
  • Learn new cooking or painting techniques from a professional.
  • Find new friends who share your quest for learning.

The Osher Institute is a membership-based, lifelong learning program that offers a wide variety of college-level, non-credit lectures, short courses, and special events for intellectually curious adults over age 50.

Join our community of 50 and older learners at the Browne Center on the Aquinas College campus and experience educational opportunities for the sheer joy of it - no tests, no grades, no papers!

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Aquinas has some fun opportunities coming up. Join us!

The Mission

Browne CenterThe Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Aquinas College is a community of those aged 50 and over joining together to achieve personal transformation of mind, body, and spirit through lifelong learning.


The History and Development of OLLI at Aquinas

The OLLI at Aquinas program at Aquinas College began in 1973 as a vision of former Aquinas College president Dr. Norbert Hruby to establish a center for lifelong learning. Dr. Hruby believed that Aquinas College had a responsibility to provide pre- and post- retirement educational opportunities to the growing population of those 50 and older. This insight and commitment were ahead of its time; especially when most small colleges were struggling just to maintain their traditional-aged students.

In the autumn of 1975, 115 “students” enrolled in courses in what was then called the Aquinas Emeritus College. In 1978, the Aquinas College Board of Trustees created the Emeritus Board to serve as an advisory body for the program. The Emeritus College program has grown steadily through the years, and more than 1500 students participate annually in the program’s classes. Today, over 46 years later, OLLI at Aquinas is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country.

In 2008, the Emeritus College became the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Aquinas, proudly continuing the rich tradition of serving the intellectual and spiritual needs of older learners in West Michigan. With a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, OLLI at Aquinas joined a nationwide network of lifelong learning institutes across the country, all devoted to best practices in lifelong learning. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are found on the campuses of 122 colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska. Each provides a distinctive array of non-credit courses and activities specifically developed for seasoned adults aged 50 and older who are interested learning for the joy of learning. Each is an independently operated lifelong learning initiative of its host-college or university and is supported in part by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

The OLLI at Aquinas College program boasts six sessions (Fall I, Fall II, January, Winter, Spring, June) offering more than 250 distinct courses per year in its on-campus program. OLLI also offers programs in collaboration with its community partners such as the Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Broadway Grand Rapids, Opera of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Ballet, the public library, and senior retirement facilities in which the classes are held at their specific locations. Additionally, OLLI’s classes are often field trips in and outside the community to visit local historic and cultural places such as new and old businesses, art institutes, theatres, wineries, and stately mansions. We also offer several trips abroad each year.

The dedicated OLLI Board, together with the director, program coordinator and program administrator(s), work toward developing curriculum, increasing the program’s visibility within the community, and identifying funding sources. The success of OLLI at Aquinas over the past 45 years is due in large part to a vibrant community that has provided both leadership and financial support.

Sister Mary Aquinas Weber, the visionary behind OLLI and currently Chancellor Emerita at Aquinas College, and who continues to provide oversight for OLLI, recently expressed beautifully who and what we are at OLLI:  There exists at the Browne Center a little island of lively activity, where the human spirit can soar, free of the limitations of time, pressure, or career-seeking or money-making. Here, mature minds can study, reflect, and discuss at leisure as they always yearned to do—not in order to earn a credit or a dollar, not to meet requirements or pass exams, but for the pure joy of learning and growing. Each year, the OLLI classes continue to satisfy that longing in its eager students, who display such boundless intellectual curiosity and verve in exploring the urgent daily concerns of our nation and world. Thank you, students, for continuing to join us and bring our programs to life!