Lifelong Learners at Berkeley

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(Kathy Enzerink, Photographer)
Orinda resident, Kathy Boyle, is a lifelong learner and retired from teaching special education for 40 years. She’s taking three online classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC Berkeley and has plans for taking many more.

    Richard Hornberger of Orinda said he’s semi-retired as a licensed architect specializing in private practice in large scale commercial and retail design, but he’s not retired from learning new things.
    The 69-year-old is currently taking five classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of California, Berkeley – online these days – and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
    “From an early age, I have had a need to understand how things work. It is just an insatiable curiosity about the world around me,” he said. “The UC Berkeley OLLI programs offer exposure to high quality classes and professors that are structured towards the postgraduate level, but without the mandatory homework, tests and grades.”
    He’s currently taking “Art as Agency,” “Extreme Politics: Radicals, Revolutionaries and Terrorists,” “Realism in World Politics: The U.S. and Germany,” “The Great Documentaries” and “Diving Into the Movies.”
    Michael Fox and Harry Chotiner teach the two film classes.
    “I’ve followed both teachers for years and find they expose me to beautiful movies I’ve not seen before and ways of looking at movies I’ve not thought of before,” said Hornberger, who was born and raised in Modesto, and has lived with his family in Orinda for almost 32 years.
    OLLI has close to 3,000 members, ages 50 and older, who hail from Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette and beyond.
    Course fees depend on the type of membership and the type of course, but for most members, 8-week, one-day-a-week, 1.5-hour classes are typically $155, with smaller, hands-on workshops (usually writing) at $235.
    “One common thread among our members is that they are insatiably curious and have been their whole lives. They crave intellectual challenge. They question and wonder. They are enthusiastic hand-raisers,” said Susan Hoffman, director of OLLI.
    Student Kathy Boyle of Orinda is currently taking three classes: “Country Music Road Trip,” taught by Pete Elman, “Sustenance and Creative Explorations in Chaotic Times,” by professor Lauren Vanett and, mirroring Hornberger, “Extreme Politics,” taught by Darren Zook.
    Born and raised in Lincoln, NH, Boyle is 72-years-old and retired from teaching special education for 40 years, working mostly with deaf and blind students.
    “I’ve always enjoyed learning in the wide variety of areas that I’ve been interested in or fascinated and intrigued by,” said Boyle. “I notice that I’ve been increasingly connecting my lifetime experiences to the layers of content of each OLLI class. This seems to be leading to a greater appreciation of how interconnected all the subjects and life experiences are.”
    Out of the many benefits, she said the OLLI classes give her the opportunity to meet like-minded people, access many stimulating ideas and perspectives and to unearth opportunities to participate in special interest groups, in her case, a hiking club.
    Boyle looks forward to other courses on her list: “Before the Storm in America: 1815-1850” with Mick Chantler, “Faith in Politics: Religion, Power and Governance” with Darren Zook, and “Country Rock: 1965-Present” with Pete Elman.
    “I’d like to take ‘The Romantic String Quartet’ with Alexandra Amati, but there’s a time conflict with another class, so I can’t,” she said.
    Hoffman said, “Our members love a variety of subjects, but it’s safe to say that current affairs and history are always among our most popular types of courses. ‘The New U.S. Supreme Court: From Bad to Worse,’ featuring Berkeley law professors, including Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, is offered this spring.”
    Hornberger, whose architectural degree came from Berkeley, said most of the classes he takes are the type of classes he would’ve taken while he was a student, but didn’t have the time due to his major requirements.
    One of the many courses next on his list is “Masterworks: Uncovering Hidden Meaning within Great Paintings,” taught by Bruce Elliott.
    “Bruce is a wonderful teacher who likes to dress the part of whatever time or subject he is teaching that day,” said Hornberger. “This class provides cultural context for classic paintings, putting us in the mindset of each artist’s contemporary audience. This appeals to the artist in me.”
    Hoffman loves the variety the institute offers lifelong learners.
    “We have a phenomenal program for older adults who love learning,” she said. “They can take courses taught by Cal faculty and other experts, attend newsmaking lectures, participate in research or join clubs and groups.”

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