Lifelong Learning in La Jolla: Osher educates the older

Staff and volunteers at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego include: (Seated) Carol Roberts and Pat Fleming. (Standing from left) Jim Wyrtzen, Jim Hanson, Valerie Chereskin and Mark Evans
Staff and volunteers at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego include: (Seated) Carol Roberts and Pat Fleming. (Standing from left) Jim Wyrtzen, Jim Hanson, Valerie Chereskin and Mark Evans

Institute on UC San Diego campus to hold open house Jan. 7, 2017

Are you over the age of 50 and still interested in learning something new?

If so, there is a place for you nearby. It’s called The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego, and is a membership program for adults who want to be part of a learning community with peers. It’s located in the Wenger Building of UC Extension Division complex on the UC San Diego campus.

At Osher you can take classes (without the stress of homework, papers or tests) from top professors in the arts, humanities, math and law, in an atmosphere conducive to interaction and making new acquaintances.

Osher came into being at UCSD in 2003, but it dates back more than 42 years to 1974, when it was founded as “The Institute for Continuing Learning” by Bernard Osher, who funded its development.

Today Osher has some 800 members. Of course, not all 800 come to every class!

Those who are currently participating in classes, which run on the quarter system, with a summer session, come to school for lectures at 10 a.m. and/or 2 p.m., with a lunch break at noon. Students may stay around until 5 p.m. to participate in music, theater or poetry groups.

Osher is almost completely run by a team of like-minded volunteers. The only paid staff member is Amy Patterson, who serves as the program manager. Patterson says her chief aim is to “develop a rich sense of community with abundant social opportunities for members.”

All the live lectures at Osher, which are given by professors from such diverse institutions such as UCSD, Loyola Marymount, University of San Diego and UC Riverside, are recorded. If you miss one, you can watch it on your computer from the comfort of home.

Mark Evans heads up the volunteer committee that selects the Law and Society courses for Osher. Lately, he has been organizing lectures on workings of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Evans is a retired lawyer who worked in Washington, D.C., for many years. He spent most of his time in private practice, but also served four years working for the Department of Justice and three years for the Interstate Commerce Commission.

He now lives in La Jolla Village, just down the hill from Osher. “The professors who come to Osher to speak really like it here because of the high interest level of students and their thoughtful questions.”

Pat Fleming is another volunteer at Osher. Before retiring and joining Osher, she worked for 26 years as a marketing consultant for SDG&E; and before that, she spent seven years working at the Harvard Business School.

Fleming said she learned about Osher from a friend in her condo complex."The $250 a year fee to take classes is a great bargain (that not many people know about), because you can take as many classes as you want for the whole year!” she said. “And you can participate in all the special events, such as field trips and theater groups, whenever you like!”

Carol Roberts is also an Osher volunteer who is chair of the Activities Committee. She says she’s been very impressed by the people she’s met in her classes at Osher. “Just about everybody is interesting and very well educated. It’s also a treat for me that when I get home my husband asks me what I learned in school today; and my children gather round and encourage me to do my homework!”

Valerie Chereskin is the new marketing director. She is freshly retired and still has the buzz of her powerful work ethic. For relaxation, she said she likes to play the flute, which she brings to practice with the Osher musical ensemble.

The president of volunteers at Osher is Jim Wyrtzen, a former psychologist who came out to San Diego from New York for the great weather, after he retired. Wyrtzen has headed the Volunteer Committee for three years. He comes to Osher everyday from his home in Carlsbad for his favorite classes in music, history and law. He said he attends both the morning and afternoon lectures and ends up staying until 5 p.m. to fulfill his volunteer duties. “Yep, it’s almost like a full time job,” he joked.

Wyrtzen says Osher students come from as far away Temecula and Chula Vista to attend classes, usually about three times a week. “Everything takes place right here. So there is a sense of community and everybody gets to know everybody else. All you really need to join up is a readiness to learn something new!”


•••• Osher Open House

• At 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, those interested can preview and sign up for Winter Quarter classes, which begin Jan. 9 through March 17, 2017. The event will be held on the UC San Diego Campus Extension Complex at 9600 North Torrey Pines Road, Building D. RSVP to

Phone: (858) 534-3409

On the Web:

Program highlights include the Master Classes of Professor Brian Keating with instruction on the Big Bang and possible parallel universes, aka “multiverses,” and Professor Sam Rickless on the 14th Amendment, which promises due process and equal protection under the law.

• In addition to the Master Classes, there are Premier Classes, such as those by Allan Kleinman on how new cures and therapies are developed in medicine, and an art class comparing the techniques of Matisse and Picasso.