OLLI Curriculum Chair

Keith Butterfield

I grew up in Yates City, Illinois, and graduated from Yates City High School in 1973 (the school no longer exists; it was merged with Farmington around 1988).  I then graduated from Illinois Central College in 1975; Bradley University in 1977 (degree in journalism/education); and worked as a newspaper reporter for the Peoria Journal Star from 1975-1986 and at Caterpillar Inc., in public affairs, marketing, human resources, and business services from 1986-2012. 

I’ve been married to Deborah (Criner) since 1975.  She, along with my Mom, Mable Tanner; stepdad, George Tanner; aunt, Carol May; and Journalism mentors, Mike Foster at ICC and Paul Snider at Bradley, all had a big role in my getting through college. We have two children:  Angela (Robinson, husband Steve) and Nicholas (Maggie Carroll), and five grandchildren: Kaylee, Jackie, Alex, Hattie, and Nellie.

As a nephew of Carol May, it was never a question that I would become involved in OLLI.  I had also heard many positive things from many other former Caterpillar and Journal Star colleagues, so it was a complete no-brainer for Deb and me to want to be members.

My first impression of OLLI was very positive – excellent programs, regardless of whether it was classes, study groups, trips, or other special events.  Staff customer service consistently exceeded expectations, and is was a great way to stay in touch with former colleagues and get to meet new friends.

What has surprised me the most about working with OLLI is the easy, open architecture for volunteering.  You can do as little (as in nothing) or as much as you’d like (with extreme flexibility for times you can/cannot be involved...e.g., OLLI recognizes retirees have multi-faceted schedules, with travel, extended periods away from Peoria, etc.)

It’s hard to cite one “best thing” about OLLI, as there have been many.  But with that in mind, would have to say it’s been the opportunity to work with many former colleagues and new ones with our excellent OLLI staff team in putting together some excellent — and ever-improving — programming.  In addition, it’s always a good day (almost as good as going to the ballpark) when we help with an OLLI cause or make a contribution. 

I’ve met some wonderful people through my involvement with OLLI:  Peggy Cornelius...Vick Stewart (whom I knew from long ago during our careers, but have really gotten know now); Jane Hense...Nancy Varness (co-facilitating a study group with Nancy and Jane was a highlight of my membership); Larry Trollope; Cornell Carr (another friend from my work years, but truly a pleasure to work with in OLLI roles); Bob Beckenbaugh (ditto with the comments re: Cornell);

OLLI’s quality programming, socialization, customer service are guiding principles and will not be compromised.  The volunteer/staff organization structure ensure constant feedback and continuous improvement.

Most of my friends and family are already OLLI members, so they have no questions other than wanting to know what programming Deb and I are taking in the next term. When acquaintances who are not OLLI members inquire...it’s usually from a very positive perspective based on what they’ve already heard.  Many/most ultimately enroll in one or more programs.

Carol May had the greatest impact in my becoming an OLLI member.  She was always campaigning for OLLI...thinking of new ideas for programming, recruiting “talent” for facilitating/instructing, brainstorming ideas for new programming, even constantly on the lookout for new sites for OLLI study groups.  So, as noted above, my OLLI involvement was never a question, it was just a question of what role(s) and when.

The interest in OLLI is growing, and I think a lot of it is demographics...Baby Boomers retiring in greater numbers and at younger ages, but the interest wouldn’t be there if OLLI didn’t have such a great reputation for quality programming and customer service.  Bradley and the team it provides through Continuing Education have much to do with that strong and well-deserved reputation, but the volunteers are essential partners in the OLLI “House of Quality.”

Volunteering for OLLI is rewarding beyond words.  It’s always a pleasure to work with someone I know or meet and learn something about them and learn together with them from our programs/instructors.

I say it often, but it’s worth repeating, “OLLI is the best ‘club’ I’ve ever joined.”