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OLLI Senior Leaders Greenville prepares for 10th class

The 2023 OLLI Senior Leaders Greenville class.

Last updated April 30, 2024

By Liv Osby

When Tom and Linda Nowlin were looking to move from Savannah, Georgia, 12 years ago, they were attracted by what Greenville, South Carolina, had to offer – a thriving downtown, changing seasons and proximity to the mountains.

Also attractive was the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI, at Furman University, which offers people 50 and older opportunities for lifelong education, social engagement and community involvement, said Tom Nowlin, a retired sales and marketing executive.

“The course offerings are just unbelievable,” he said. “And there are also a number of bonus events, where you’re able to go out and visit various places.”

For the 10th year, OLLI is gearing up for its Senior Leaders Greenville class, which, much like Leadership Greenville, offers participants a deep dive into issues facing the community and how they affect seniors.

The Senior Leaders Greenville class will meet monthly from August to April, sometimes on Furman’s campus and other times in the community, said Nancy Kennedy, OLLI director.  Applications are available online and will be accepted through June 1.

“There is one class each academic year, and they meet monthly for a full day to look at issues … such as medical care and why there are not enough geriatricians and what that means for seniors,” Kennedy said.

Other issues have included the history of the area and the psychology of aging, she said, adding they conclude by looking for solutions.

“They are taking that knowledge into everyday life,” she said. “Some learn about programs that they want to volunteer for with this background. It makes for a more informed citizen.”

Some participants are long-time Greenville residents, she said, while others are recent transplants who want to learn more about their community.

Nowlin, 74, was part of the first Senior Leaders class.

“You’re able to get together with like-minded individuals focused on making a difference in the community,” he said.

Among the projects they’ve tackled are identifying opportunities to expand child care, which is “a huge challenge” in Greenville, and chronic homelessness, he said, noting members raised money for an apartment complex scheduled to open later this year.

Still another revolved around the public transportation system, he said. So, participants rode bus routes to get a better understanding of the challenges and to see if they could make a difference, proposing different schedules, for example, he said.

“Each year, there’s a different group … that comes in and presents to Senior Leaders,” he said “And we’re able to come in and say, ‘We have these resources. How can we help?”

Both OLLI and Senior Leaders provide Furman with considerable outreach, benefiting the university, the seniors and the community, Kennedy said.

Members love being around students, who help them fine tune their research and presentation skills, and provide diversity, she added.

Nowlin said that from the psychology of spirituality to a Chinese cooking class, he and his wife feel blessed to be involved.

“OLLI’s been great for me,” he said. “You need to make sure you’re going to retire to something meaningful and OLLI provides that opportunity.”

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