OLLI President

Jane Hense

I grew up in Galesburg, attended the long-gone Corpus Christi High School and then Clarke College, now University, in Dubuque, Iowa. I earned a master’s degree from Bradley University.

I first became involved with OLLI about 8 years ago when I signed up for winter classes, but I had been waiting to get involved for years before that when Margie Getz, whom I was working with at the time, talked about a trip to England she was taking with her husband Dan.

OLLI immediately caught me with the diversity of its classes and the friendly and open-minded mix of people. I felt at home immediately.

When I began volunteering with OLLI, first as a study group facilitator, I was impressed by the openness and inclusiveness of the staff and volunteer leadership. The whole attitude was "we're so glad you're here."

Maybe the best thing to happen to me regarding my further involvement with OLLI was a person-- Carol May-- who offered friendship and encouragement when I proposed leading a study of author Flannery O'Connor. Carol pretty much embodied drive and passion for OLLI and invited many others to find their place in the organization.

Whenever I volunteer at OLLI, or donate, I know I am enriching my own intellectual and social life. OLLI is such a big part of me at this stage. I love the people, am stimulated by my involvement in programs and the board. I love the staff and all they do to make things go so well. I love meeting new people and discovering the wisdom and life experiences they have to share.

What would I change about OLLI? That's hard to answer as I know how hard we work to make things work for such a large number of people. A building of our own would be nice, but absent that, the only thing that comes to mind is maybe wishing that we could enact changes more quickly (e.g., membership), but I know the constraints under which we have to operate. There are times when we can/have made quick changes, when we have turned "on a dime" and that is refreshing.

I wish our members all knew 1) how much work the staff does to make things run smoothly and, 2) how much we would welcome their expertise or passion for a subject.

Just a few of the people I've met--or gotten to know better, people who enrich my life with their humor, wit, tenacity, intelligence, open-mindedness. This is hard as the list goes on and on, but just a sample-- certainly Carol May. Some people don't know how funny she was in addition to her brilliance, but she could really crack me up. Cornell Carr for his warmth and appreciation and affection for people. Keith Butterfield for his humble ways and his quiet intelligence and affection. Jennifer Bass for the amazing leadership she showed as president last year as well as the smiling friendship she always offers. Shelly Epstein for his wry humor and ability to make every encounter fun.  Greg Peine for his genius, generosity and humility. Michelle Riggio for her sense of humor, incredible hard work, modesty and friendship. The list goes on and on...

My strongest belief about OLLI is that it enriches every part of my life and offers the same experience for anyone who gets involved. Intellectually--I love to study and this gives me a good reason to dive in--, socially, I love to be with people and always find sharing time and ideas exciting and fun.

Seems like a common response from people who are not now involved with OLLI is, "oh, yeah. I've heard about that. My neighbor goes...." or something like that, which gives me the chance to ask if they get the brochure and to urge them to get involved. I think I need to make it more personal.... invite them to come with me to something.

Of course it was Carol May who urged me to move from excited participant to involved study group facilitator etc. I suspect there are a lot of us who were "brought along" by Carol's invitation. She was always on the lookout for people ready to deepen their experience with OLLI.

I hope that growing interest in OLLI is a reflection of our program quality and the welcome we offer. I am convinced that OLLI offers an invitation to a richer life.

I would urge people to give OLLI a try, would invite them to come with me to a class or study group, would tell them how low key their involvement could be if that's what they want. I would talk about OLLI's great people, about how neat it is to meet people and get to know their interests. I guess I couldn't really tell them it would keep them smarter, happier and healthier, but I believe that.

The next five years will likely bring significant changes to the structure of our program, ones that satisfy the needs and interests of the "young olds," but intellectual curiosity and the need and desire for social involvement will likely still drive our decision-making.

It is 100% rewarding and fun to volunteer for OLLI. I get to share my knowledge of my subject matter with others and am lucky to be involved with people willing to help make OLLI work.

When I am not involved with OLLI, I read, travel, spend time with family and friends, read more, play backgammon on line or with anyone willing, keep in touch with longtime friends via email, read about reading, try to get my 10K steps in everyday, bake anything lemon or chocolate, make lists, write in my journal, do a little work around my house--enough to keep the health department away. Read.

If I had $10K to give OLLI, I would give bonuses to the staff.

Only parting comment I would make are reminders to myself to more actively invite people to try OLLI out and to express gratitude to all the people who work to make OLLI such a great experience.