2021-22 Annual Report


  • 195 classes and special events
  • 191 instructors and guest speakers
  • 48% online
  • 41% in the classroom
  • 11% outdoors
  • 76 new classes
  • $37,377 donations to Annual Fund from 20.3% of total membership
  • New online registration system through Butte County Stabilization grant

OLLI Community Unites When It Matters Most

Reflecting on our journey since the pandemic started over two years ago provides some insights, such as:

  • Seemingly insurmountable challenges can be met when we tap into the willingness and creativity of our community.
  • There will never be an ideal time to switch to a new system.
  • Forays into new territory may create glitches, but they result in useful course corrections.
  • Resilience is key.

Obstacles notwithstanding, our lifelong learning community is stronger and more cohesive because of shared experiences. We are energized by the discovery that we can thrive online and in person. More than 500 members participated in at least one online class last year, up from zero participation prior to the pandemic (because there were no online classes!) and more than 150 members returned in person last fall.

Instead of 125 Osher institutes, we suddenly had 250.

Spoken by Kelly Jane Rosenblatt, program director of The Bernard Osher Foundation, referring to the “double duty” required of OLLI staff and volunteers to operate both online and in person.

Financial Overview

In Fall ’20 memberships dropped 49% from the previous year. Since OLLI’s primary source of revenue is membership fees, the overall loss in members for fiscal year 2020-21 was also a $102,000 loss in revenue. Six years of building a reserve fund for economic uncertainty paid off, enabling OLLI to meet all financial obligations. Fiscal year 2021-2022 showed some recovery, with a 25% increase in membership made up of both returning members and new members.

Each year OLLI is able to withdraw funds from the Osher Endowment Fund earnings, another critical revenue source for the program. In FY 20/21, that amount totaled $105,570; in FY 21/22 the amount was $98,700. The amount withdrawn annually is determined by the total value of the fund at the end of a prior fiscal year.

The higher the value of the earnings, the more the program can withdraw. The reverse is also true. Lower earnings mean less money for program support. Individual member donations and business sponsor donations also contribute to OLLI’s revenue pie.

Program Enrichment A Top Priority for 2022-23

After focusing heavily on member recruitment and retention during the pandemic, OLLI staff and volunteer leaders are looking forward to tackling broader, more dynamic goals in 2022-23. Even before the new fiscal year started on July 1, volunteers brainstormed creative ways to enrich the OLLI experience. The Program Enrichment Team was conceived at a Beatniks lunch meeting last November, when a mix of members and instructors reflected on how teaching and learning have changed, and the ways OLLI might adjust to meet evolving needs and interests.


Another group of volunteers met for the first time in May to explore ways to recruit new instructors in popular subject areas. Originally, the idea was for volunteers with shared interests to stick together, but the May meeting included many disciplines. An exhilarating number of cross-disciplinary ideas emerged, like “the neuropsychology of racism” and a local touring class on the history of Butte County.

2022-23 Annual Goals

  1. Increase OLLI membership by 12%.
  2. Restructure organizational leadership to reflect evolving needs of the program.
  3. Plan and deliver effective instruction that advances learning and social-well-being of OLLI members.
  4. Identify new revenue sources beyond traditional membership fees.


These conversations bring renewed energy to the program through the differing perspectives of a range people. If you would like to become a part of the program’s “rebirth,” we encourage you to complete the online Volunteer Form, and we’ll be in touch soon.

OLLI Chico volunteer Paul Coots (left) with Mr. Bernard Osher and Osher Foundation President Mary G. F. Bitterman at the 2022 National Osher Conference in Denver, Colorado in April

Better Together: Becoming More Inclusive Through Change

In addition to battling the coronavirus, we’ve also grappled with the senseless and tragic killing of George Floyd, multiple instances of racial injustice, plus an alarming frequency of mass shootings in schools, grocery stores, and workplaces. OLLI chose to confront some of these issues through education using the amazing human resources at Chico State and in the wider community. Since May ’20, OLLI has hosted 18 classes on the topic of race, equity, inclusion, and belonging, with 7 more classes in the planning phases for fall. Classes on race, gender inclusion, and healthy aging are all ways in which OLLI members have engaged in important, sometimes difficult, conversations.

OLLI instructor Lori Murphy Cole joined a small group of OLLI volunteers who met monthly with the program director to explore new approaches to the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These discussions led to the creation of several classes, starting with the fall 2020 Book in Common class, “Exploring Antiracism.” This five-week class was facilitated by faculty member Laura Nice and featured four guest speakers, all Chico State faculty, who offered background and experience on sensitive topics related to race. This course launched others and our OLLI community became aware that there was much to learn. 

These courses aren't an attempt to trend with the times; our commitment is to broach topics that uncover bias and racial injustice and to address them in our greater community. It's time to turn our curiosity and dedication to learning in the direction of tough topics with the goal of coming to a better understanding of today's world.

“After the killing of George Floyd when it was obvious to many people that racism must be addressed as a society, I tackled the topic as any other privileged white person. I wasn't racist, why did I need to delve further into the topic? Yet something was pulling me to be the lifelong learner I had always encouraged my students to be. I soon learned that I didn't know the real story behind being white. I didn't know (had I even thought about it?) about white privilege. I didn't know the stories of the people that have faced racism and marginalization all their lives.

It was time to learn and learn more.

Lori Murphy Cole, OLLI Instructor

Reset; Rebuild: OLLI Team Emerges From Zoom Overload

Headshot of OLLI Staff Member Ruth Alderson

As we find our footing in both the virtual and physical learning arenas, we are rebuilding our team. With the retirements of Susan Levine and Gayle Womack a year ago, two employees, Tammy Strobel and Lyndall Ellingson, were hired to fill the void. Since then, both Lyndall and Tammy have moved on to new opportunities, partly a reflection of the demanding workload associated with operating an educational program in a pandemic.


In February we expanded our search for someone with a broader set of skills and experience. Ruth Alderson, pictured, responded and is catapulting us forward in her role as program manager. "I've built a career out of being the person who takes care of a lot of behind-the-scenes details so that everything else works smoothly." said Ruth. "I also believe deeply in the importance of education and lifelong learning. My job as program manager for OLLI is a perfect blend of those two things."


Spoiler alert! Ruth has programmed the online registration system to automatically send Zoom links to members for classes in which they've enrolled. Now members won't have to navigate to the Member Page for Zoom links and class recordings. Ruth's strategic thinking, attention to detail, and comfort with technology is already making a difference. Stop by the office sometime to help us make Ruth feel welcome!

Digital Learning Opens New Doors

For years leading up to the pandemic, OLLI staff and volunteer leaders talked about the potential advantages of introducing distance education into the curriculum using a relatively new technology called “Zoom.” But the workload associated with expanding to an online format seemed daunting; hence the idea sank to the bottom of annual priority lists. COVID-19 changed all that, thrusting distance education to the top of the list within days of shelter-in-place orders. Zoom was, overnight, the “Band-Aid” of pandemic life.


We hadn't anticipated the innovative ways in which we would begin connecting with other Osher institutes. All 125 institutes across the US were in the same boat, with most having never offered online classes. Program directors started sharing classes, lectures, and workshops – online. Last spring, two instructors from OLLI at University of Arizona offered classes for Chico members, as well as U of A members, bringing the total live-online audience to nearly 200 members! OLLI Chico instructors have also been hosting members from other OLLIs in classes on gardening, music, and the arts.

Some people questioned how a gardening class from Chico would be relevant to people in Arizona. My answer to that was: a gopher is a gopher, wherever you are. Besides, two of our instructors weren't from Chico, but Salem, Oregon, and the Bay Area. It was fun, and useful, to hear the commonality of experiences (and frustrations) of dealing with the challenges of climate change.

Leanne Ulvang, OLLI Instructor

Since March ’20, more than 124 lectures have been shared across the Osher network, with no plans to stop. And this year, eight OLLI members from Osher institutes outside of Chico, auditioned and won parts for the OLLI Chico Play Festival – online! Dori Anthony of OLLI at University of Alabama, Huntsville, plays a sinister character in Sunrise Speaks, written and directed by festival founder and longtime Chico member Pam Loyd. Asked how she felt about playing a woman contemplating the murder of her husband, Dori said, “It was a surprise to be asked to play a character who is very much different than me (thank goodness), but Pam really helped me develop the attitude of the character. It’s such a funny play, and I hope everyone will get a laugh and a short respite from the current troubles in the world.”

We look forward to expanding these partnerships well after the pandemic subsides, enriching our curriculum and building social networks inside and outside of the North State.

Special Thank You!

At OLLI Chico, community is at the heart of who we are. Our lifelong learning program exists through heartful contributions of our volunteers – members and community partners who serve as guides, visionaries, teachers, and loyal supporters. We couldn't let this moment pass without recognizing those whose hard work and tireless support keep OLLI at the forefront of active learning and engagement. 

Program Enrichment Committee

With pandemic responsibilities abating, OLLI is refocusing on program enrichment opportunities, with help from veteran volunteers as well as new volunteer leaders: Betty Bilbo, Lynn Cannon, Paul Coots, Louise Cummins, Jerry Dunham, Myron Flindt, Gary Hedlind, Dick Kennedy, Joe Matthews, Marcia Moore, Paul Moore, Lois Olson, David Price, Sara Simmons, William Tefteller, Sydney Wilde.

Office Volunteers

As we resume in-person classes, these volunteers serve as knowledgeable greeters and guides, providing administrative support services: Carla Bee, Paul Coots, Ellen Copeland, Gail Herrit, Zoe Race, Margaret Rader, Jim Salber, Donna Sandberg, Debbie Vermette.

Instructors and Hosts

Take a moment to read the biographies of the fall instructors in our Fall '22 CatalogCurrent and retired faculty, teachers, lawyers, hobbyists, engineers, nurses, mechanics, entrepreneurs, and administrators have devoted countless hours to enhancing our learning experience this fall.


Individual Donations totaled $37,377 from 20.3 percent of OLLI members in 2021-22. Your generosity provided fee assistance for members who needed a lift; new computer equipment to help us stay connected and engaged; air purifiers to keep us safe; and a financial boost when revenue targets fell short due to membership losses in the pandemic.

Zoom Trainers

These Zoom-savvy members dedicate their time to training and assisting instructors and members online: Cris Guenter, Sue Kennedy, Gale Ulvang, Leanne Ulvang.

Membership & Outreach Team

Long-time OLLI ambassadors, these volunteers promote OLLI at famers' markets, recruit new members, and educated Chico about our program: Joan Buck, Carla Dunham, Peggy Fashing, Pat Gee, Roxanna Grassini, Sally Martin, Nancy McCartney, Paul Moore, Ginny Rose, Gwen Rust, Bettye-Ann Stephens, Donna Wilson.

Business Sponsors

Connecting with local businesses helps expand programming, improve public image, and build prestige in the community. OLLI sponsorships also offset major expenses, like classroom rental fees, and they contribute to our reserve fund, which has sustained us through the darkest months of the pandemic.

OLLI Fall '22 Calendar

August 17 ............... Virtual Class Preview

August 18 ............... In-Person Class Preview

August 25 ............... Fall Class Registration Opens

September 12 ......... First Day of Fall Classes

October 17 - 28 ...... Fall Break

November 11 .......... Veterans Day

November 21 -25 ... Thanksgiving Break

December 9 ............ Last Day of Fall Classes