Jim Firnberg is a dedicated student. In the past few years, he has taken classes in astronomy, history and constitutional law.
He is also a 78-year-old former LSU professor and chancellor of LSU Alexandria.
Firnberg has been taking classes with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a division of the department of Continuing Education that offers classes for adults 50 and older. OLLI, which has provided programs to older residents for the last decade, will offer its first classes of the year today.
Wendy Overton, director of OLLI at LSU, said the program is offered at five separate locations across the state: Baton Rouge, Gonzales, Assumption Parish, Eunice and St. Francisville.
The goal of OLLI is to foster community, according to Overton. She said after people retire, it can be difficult to maintain an active social and intellectual life, and OLLI helps them do that.
“When people enter what I call the ‘third stage of life,’ they’re often retiring and the circles they run in change,” Overton said. “OLLI helps people develop an engaging life in retirement with people with similar schedules and interests.”
Overton said the most popular courses are often those that younger students would try to avoid, and Firnberg agreed.
Firnberg said his favorite classes mostly had to do with history and other social studies, which he had less interest in when he was younger.
“I took one or two classes with [LSU history professor] James Hardy. He is an incredible lecturer,” Firnberg said. “I thoroughly enjoyed every class, and I think it’s worth anyone’s while to take a look at what they offer.”
Overton said besides continuing their education, members can take courses to learn life skills they wouldn’t have otherwise.
While OLLI previously offered classes in Microsoft Word and Excel, Overton said these classes did not attract many students. So OLLI asked students to fill out a survey describing which aspects of computer technology they would be interested in learning.
“Skype, iPads, email, music — those were the most popular,” Overton said. “They want to be able to connect with their grandkids and things like that. Word and Excel are more business skills that retired people don’t need as much.”
Overton said the OLLI program relies on endowments from the Osher Foundation, but is financially self-sufficient.