June 23, 2018
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Resource center for program that aids older students leaving USM for Illinois university

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
David Flanagan
By Sam Hill

PORTLAND, Maine — The Bernard Osher Foundation, which provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation, will soon be moving its National Resource Center from the University of Southern Maine to Northwestern University in Illinois.

“In response to the pending retirement of the NRC founding executive director and the now national scale of the network, the Osher Foundation has taken a strategic look at how to best meet the growing demand for services from the NRC,” wrote David Flanagan, president at USM, in an email to staff and faculty.

Kali Lightfoot, the current NRC executive director, is set to retire on Sept. 1. Lightfoot’s departure will mark a transition of leadership and an opportunity to think strategically about the program, according to Mary Bitterman, the president of the foundation.

“After careful consideration, we have decided that the NRC should be centrally located at an institution of higher education with a national reputation as well as the financial and institutional resources necessary to support institutes located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” Bitterman wrote in an email to Susan Morrow, the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USM.

Bitterman also stressed in her letter that support for OLLI would not waver and that the foundation is still committed to the program at USM. The program at USM was the first Osher Institute and the only program with its own Osher-funded building.

Dan Demeritt, the University of Maine system’s director of public affairs, said that the change in location would not affect any of the Osher programs offered in Maine.

“In terms of class offerings, support for the program as a whole and funding, this means absolutely nothing to the educational program at USM,” said Demeritt. “The foundation remains extremely committed to Maine and our institution. Their network is just so drastically different and larger now that they need a more centralized location for the resource center.”

The NRC managed national communication between all Osher Institutions, arranging conferences and sharing education and classroom techniques. According to Morrow, the OLLI program at USM serves more than 1,700 lifelong learners over the age of 50, providing access to courses ranging from music and art to history and science.

“Our funding is completely separate and we are self-sufficient between membership fees and tuition,” said Morrow.

The move will have an effect on staff though, as NRC employees Fran Myers and Anne Cardale will lose their jobs as a result of the relocation.

According to Flanagan, the employees were told about the decision Thursday afternoon.

“We will do all we can to assist these impacted staff members through their employment transition,” wrote Flanagan.

“The institution is in good shape. The only change will be the missing friends among the staff,” said Morrow.


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