University of Washington’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and One Day University feature lectures and courses on a broad range of topics, from art history to current events.

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No papers. No grades. Just the joy of learning.

That’s why Linda Farrell regularly walks a short path from her home at an active adult community called Trilogy at Redmond Ridge to classes sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington, part of its Continuum College.

“I’ve been taking classes right and left, in whatever sparks my interest,” Farrell says.

Of course, there’s a little work for some classes, she admits. “For one class on Marxism, we had to read ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ ” she says. “There’s some homework, but never a test, and you don’t have to do the homework. Most classes are lecture format, with a ton of Q-and-A [time].”

Here are a few options available locally for those who want to soak up knowledge without pursuing a degree or certificate.

Osher Lifeling Learning

OLLI-UW classes are designed for adults 50 and older and are offered all over Puget Sound, from Everett to Issaquah to Seattle.

The courses draw from a wide range of fields and are taught by current and retired UW faculty or experts from the community. Winter 2019’s slate includes “Geomorphology: The Study of Landforms,” “Andrew Jackson: The First Populist President,” “Introduction to Modern Short Fiction;” and “Contemporary Ethics I.”

The classes encourage new friendships and provide learning opportunities via a membership to the program, which is $35 per year. OLLI-UW membership gives access to courses, free member programs, access to UW libraries and more.

OLLI-UW is one of 122 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes on U.S. campuses, launched by philanthropist Bernard Osher in 2001, which have a similar mission — noncredit courses, no assignments, no grades — for “seasoned” adults, in the institute’s words.

Some professors, admittedly, appreciate teaching adult students who already know who Ronald Reagan was — no explanation necessary, says Natalie Lecher, director of OLLI-UW.

“Professors enjoy the experience too, and engaging with the audience,” says Lecher. “The professors are really passionate about their topics.”

Summer brings field trips, such as guided art-museum tours with art historians. Year-round offerings include free, weekly meetings that are designed and led by members and focused on a chosen topic or book, ranging from a Mercer Island group on current events to a Everett book group working through classic literature.

OLLI-UW has about 1,000 members on average, per year, with rolling enrollment — so students can sign up as they wish, says Lecher. In fall, winter, and spring, about 20 courses are offered throughout OLLI-UW’s locations, typically meeting for two hours per week, for three to five weeks. Members pay between $30–$50 per course. The program aims to keep fees low since many members have a fixed income.

Lunch & Learn

Another option for “seasoned” adult education is the Lunch & Learn program, OLLI-UW-sponsored, free noontime talks by experts on a wide range of subjects; members only need bring their lunch and optionally, a guest.

Farrell, who retired from the Woodland Park Zoo’s education department, coordinates Lunch & Learn offerings at Trilogy. She recently brought in a conservation specialist who talked about the zoo’s conservation programs and wolverine project. “We get 150 people at these lectures,” she says. “We’re having one on media ethics. We have a full house and a waiting list for that one.”

A sample of upcoming winter lectures: “Spotting Fake Health News,” “Hummingbirds: Masters of the Air,” “Washington’s History in 10 Songs,” and lectures on veteran privacy, happiness and Woody Guthrie’s FBI files.

Members might have always been curious about some topics, but never before had the ability to study nature or history, art or science, says Lecher, who cites a lecture on orcas by a NOAA scientist as a standout.     

“So many of us retired people have the opportunity to delve into learning like we never did before,” Farrell says, thanks to Osher. “When you’re working or have kids you can’t find time or inclination. Now we have the time. And definitely the inclination.”

One Day University

A few times a year, The Seattle Times presents live talks by top professors from around the country at One Day University.

The next session will be held March 30 from 9 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. at UW’s Kane Hall. Lecture topics include “World War I in America: What Really Happened, and Why it Matters” by Jennifer Keene, of Chapman University; “When Empires Collapse: What Can Americans Learn from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome?” by Kara Cooney, of UCLA; and “American Immigration: Myths and Realities,” by Jeremi Suri, of University of Texas.

Admission to One Day University usually costs $159, but readers who register here using the code SEA119 will save $40.

OLLI-UW locations

Everett: Carl Gipson Senior Center

Issaquah: University House Issaquah

Mill Creek: Mill Creek Senior Center

Mukilteo: Rosehill Community Center

Redmond: Trilogy at Redmond Ridge

Mercer Island: 

• Mercer Island Community & Event Center

• Stroum Jewish Community Center


• Magnuson Park — The Brig Building 406

• Mirabella (downtown)

• The Lakeshore

• University House (Wallingford)

• UW main campus