Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Kent and Sussex County OLLI programs join forces

UD’s OLLI programs in Kent and Sussex County merge to combine strengths

The University of Delaware’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) programs in Kent County and Sussex County have officially joined forces to establish OLLI Kent/Sussex. OLLI Kent/Sussex council chair Connie Benko congratulates the combined council and membership on its cooperation and group efforts. 

virtual OLLI council meeting
The newly merged OLLI Kent/Sussex Council is shown here at its second meeting on March 23. All OLLI activities are currently taking place online.

Congratulations to all OLLI members who have joined together to create OLLI Kent/Sussex.

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that the OLLI Kent and Sussex Councils have merged into one council. This merger permits the OLLI Kent/Sussex Council to better serve the needs of all our members and to share resources equitably.

History of successful cooperation

For the past several years we have had common catalogs of class offerings, and members have been invited to take classes in OLLI’s Kent County or Sussex County locations. Some instructors have taught in both counties. We have shared our UD program manager and program coordinator for over a year. We have had a common fee structure and course registration process.

Kent and Sussex counties had already been cooperating very successfully when the pandemic forced us to cancel in-person classes in March 2020. At that time, we began to work even more closely to successfully launch online classes last summer, leading to successful fall and spring semesters as well.

Pandemic led us to “think outside the box” and prosper

The success of our online experience was only possible through the cooperation of staff and volunteers from all three counties. Through their help — as well as all the members who were willing to try something new by learning to “Zoom” and attending classes in the summer, fall semester, January enrichment classes and now spring semester — UD’s OLLI program in Delaware is now the largest program in the United States by a wide margin, with 215 classes and 1,934 registrants from 25 states involved in the spring semester.

Many of our members have become involved in the statewide committees and subcommittees. In fact, the largest statewide committee, the Virtual Learning Committee, counts 16 of its 32 members from Kent and Sussex counties.

Add to this number the instructors, members who have trained the instructors and members, members who are serving as Volunteer Virtual Assistants in the classes, and the members who have set up special meetings and workshops to enhance our program — and it becomes evident how our program has grown partly because the COVID pandemic forced us to think outside the box and prosper.

Now it became obvious that OLLI Kent and Sussex counties would be stronger financially and as a program, and our members would be better served if we combined as one council. With this in mind, a committee made up of equal members from each program met and drew up a new set of bylaws to govern OLLI Kent/Sussex.

Thank you to our dedicated volunteers 

I wish to extend a special thank you to Bob Comeau, Marge Felty, Phyllis Handler, Susan Salkin, Karen Schaub and Trudie Thompson for their hard work and dedication in writing the mutually agreed upon OLLI Kent/Sussex bylaws. Those bylaws were adopted at the first meeting of the merged council on February 23. The council will eventually consist of 11 members representing each county. Presently there are 16 council members. When terms expire, new voting council members will not be elected to replace them until the council is reduced to 11 voting members representing each county in 2024.

The financial funds have been merged in order to serve everyone. The one exception is the Expanding Horizons fund which was created to fund the expenses involved in the move into the Trinity Church Building in Lewes. These funds will continue to be dedicated to that purpose.

Each Council member has a committee responsibility and is looking for volunteers to assist in fulfilling these duties. Some committees are served by two co-chairs, one from each county to better serve members. Click here for a list of current OLLI Kent/Sussex committees.

Pete Feeney, Pat Weaver and Caroline Baxter will be leaving Council in May 2021 due to term limits. Joe Bailey submitted his resignation at the February meeting. We thank all these members for their service to OLLI and look forward to their continued participation as OLLI members.

Connie Benko
Connie Benko, Council Chair, OLLI Kent/Sussex

All staff and council members are looking forward to the time when we can return to classes in person. Until that time comes, we are thriving online but miss our friends who are waiting until they can return in person. 

Congratulations to all OLLI members who have joined together to create OLLI Kent/Sussex.

By Connie Benko, Council Chair, OLLI Kent/Sussex