Florida Atlantic University's popular Lifelong Learning Program may get a $4 million boost next year to ensure it's around to serve seniors for years to come.
The university's Board of Trustees agreed Tuesday to take the first step – accepting a $150,000 grant -- in a potentially lucrative partnership with the Bernard Osher Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that supports 118 lifelong learning programs for "seasoned adults."
FAU, with about 13,000 lifelong learners on its Boca Raton and Jupiter campuses, has the largest and many believe the most successful such program in the country. Osher's largest program now is at the University of Delaware with 3,000 members.
"One of our true crown jewels at FAU is our Lifelong Learning Society," FAU lawyer David Kian told the Board of Trustees. "This is the beginning of what we expect will be a very exciting and fruitful relationship for the university."
The initial grant will be used to build on its success and enhance operations at the two campuses, FAU spokesman Joshua Glanzer said, although he didn't have specific details.
"If the Bernard Osher Foundation and FAU are satisfied with our relationship and how the operating grant money is used over the next year, we may proceed to the second step of the process," a $4 million gift, Glanzer said.
That grant, which would come next year, would be four times the size of grants given to most other universities. FAU's program would be renamed the Osher Lifelong Institute.
Glanzer said since the money is an endowment, the university could only spend the interest, which would likely be about $200,000 a year. He said the additional income will be used to supplement, not replace, existing funds.
The program is supported mostly through registration fees, memberships, sponsorships and philanthropic gifts, Glanzer said.
"In most cases, the grant has enabled institutes to add a staff person. Others have used it for marketing purposes," said Kali Lightfoot, executive director of the resource center for Osher institutes. "With an endowment, you have a sense of permanence."
She said the focus of the Lifelong Learning programs don't usually change with Osher's affiliation.
Participants at FAU attend lectures on politics, religion, world affairs, the arts and other topics. Recent lectures have included topics such as terrorism, United States and Israeli relations, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the music of Rogers and Hammerstein and the life of television pioneer Sid Caesar.
Osher supports six other lifelong learning programs in Florida, including the University of Miami, Florida International University and Florida State University. The foundation was created in 1977 by Osher, a businessman and community leader.
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