Unlimited Learning

For the last decade or so of his career in the University of Missouri School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Churchill looked forward to continuing his education in retirement.

“I used to get the Osher catalogue in the mail before I retired,” he says, referring to Mizzou’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program delivering non-credit courses to the over-50 adult. “I would read the course bulletin cover-to-cover each time it came. I loved the gamut of offerings and knew some of the instructors. I said to myself that once I retired, I planned to enroll in Osher courses.”

That retirement came in the fall of 2012. Churchill gave himself some “couch downtime” and then started volunteering at several local agencies. He also enrolled as a Premier member at Osher, which allowed him a full year of unlimited courses for the price of three courses. He signed up for seven courses in the 2013 fall semester, and the experience was even better than he’d imagined.

“It’s one thing to look at the topics and say: ‘Boy, those are interesting, and I think I’d like to take this one or that one,’ but the quality of the instructors exceeded my expectations,” he says. “These people are really good. I graduated from high school in 1964, so I’ve been either a student or on a faculty at a college or university since ’64, so I’ve heard a lot of people talk in my time. The instructors we get here to lead these courses are as good as anybody I’ve ever heard give a course.

“And then the other thing that surprised me was the audience,” Churchill continues, “and how much that’s a part of the learning experience. It’s supposed to be for people over 50. However, most people just over 50 are still working full time, so it’s hard for them to get to a course like this, so most of the people are a little bit older than 50, and, man, these are really bright people who know a lot. I wasn’t expecting that. Actually, I hadn’t even thought about that piece of it. … I have made friends with member students whom I would never have met outside of Osher.”

As for the topics, those have continued to be as interesting as the ones that lured him into signing up. Courses Churchill has taken include one on the French composer Maurice Ravel, one on climate change, one on existentialism, one on the 2014 elections and one on the pleasures of probability, just to name a few. As a Premier member, he also has the opportunity to attend brown bag seminars, which have covered everything from falconeering to financial estate planning, and he also gains free admission to the Friday film festival, which presents a film followed by discussion.

Churchill’s wife, Barbara, is also a Premier Osher member, and Churchill is on the Osher advisory council. He regularly visits various clubs around town to entice more retirees to Osher.

“I’m really enthusiastic about talking about this with people because I want them to go and experience it because I know once they do — if they even take one course — they’ll be back for other courses,” he says. “I am convinced that attending Osher courses adds years to the lives of attendees. … Osher is one of the real elixirs of life.”


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Osher’s winter session starts on Jan. 20. Find out more by visiting www.learnforlife.missouri.edu or calling 573-882-2585.