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March 3, 2008 - GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (February 27, 2008) - Aquinas Emeritus College has received a generous grant from the San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation to support and expand educational opportunities for older students. Founded in 1977, the Osher Foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts as well as for an expanding network of national lifelong learning institutes for seasoned adults.

The Aquinas Emeritus College, which began in 1975, is one of the more established programs in the nation. The quality and diversity of Emeritus’ course offerings are what caught the attention of the Foundation, which funds institutions of higher education that value and support lifelong learning programs and community service.

One condition of the grant is that Emeritus College change its name to conform to the other institutes across the nation—thus, The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Aquinas College, a change that will take place later this year.

"The folks at Osher have been very generous in allowing us to phase in the new name," says Sue Stauffacher, the new director of Emeritus College. "We're so thrilled about the possibilities for collaboration that our association with Osher affords us. We'll be able to tap into an extensive network of exciting programming nationwide to bring the very best practices in lifelong learning to West Michigan."

Aquinas recently received the first of two annual installments of $100,000. If, at the end of two years, the Emeritus College programs successfully meet the grant requirements, Osher will provide an additional one million dollar gift to the Emeritus College endowment.

"Budgets in many retirement communities are unable to provide such opportunities for lifelong learning," said Sr. Mary Aquinas Weber, Chancellor Emerita and former director of Emeritus College. "This grant will allow the Emeritus College to expand and reach out to older and diverse populations in places where resources are limited."

Aquinas College President Ed Balog welcomes what he described as a "long and productive relationship" with the Osher Foundation, and says the grant brings national recognition to the quality of the Emeritus program.

"This financial commitment will help us to solidify our range of programs and allow us to continue to fulfill our mission regarding lifelong learning opportunities," Balog noted.

Albert Lewis, the former director of Emeritus College who submitted the application to Osher, used a "patient approach" in landing the grant. He credits program coordinator Cindy Dorman with helping to craft an application that convinced the granting agency to give Aquinas another look.

"Cindy did much of the number-crunching and gave lots of creative input."

Lewis feels the grant award is a fitting culmination to his five years as Emeritus College director. "I always wanted to leave the program with a million dollars in the bank. I'm just delighted that has come true," he stated.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes now operate on 115 college campuses from Maine to Hawaii. Other Michigan institutions that have received Osher grants include Saginaw Valley State University in 2005 and University of Michigan in 2006.