Covering the Land of Lincoln

Long Beach Seniors Go Back to School to Learn More – Press Telegram

You are never too old to start studying.

This is the mantra of Sylvia Manheim and other elders who go into the books at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Cal State Long Beach.

Age is just a number for them.

“It’s exciting to keep learning, no matter how old you are,” said Manheim, who should know.

She is 96 and, despite her legal blindness, still as energetic and alive as she was when she was younger. There is not enough space in this column to cover everything she has accomplished in her remarkable life.

When Manheim retired 25 years ago, she was understandably a little bored after such a rich and varied life. Her résumé includes teaching Native Americans reading in northern Michigan, being arrested for fighting segregation in Illinois, developing a breast self-exam training program for women in Long Beach, and raising three children.

She didn’t want to just sit around the house and watch TV. She wanted to keep learning. But how does it work?

She was sitting in her garden with some friends talking about what they could do to liven up the next phase of her life when an idea occurred to her.

“How about a school where seniors can continue studying?” She asked her friends.

This idea found roots and eventually became the Senior University in Cal State Long Beach in 1996 – and now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

A party was scheduled for Sunday January 9th to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Senior University-OLLI, but it has been postponed due to the surge in COVID-19, said OLLI President Dr. Glenn Libby.

  • From left OLLI President Dr. Glenn Libby, Barbara White and Sylvia Manheim at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. (Courtesy Rebecca Low)

  • Seniors during a physical education class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. (Courtesy of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute)

  • Seniors during a course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. (Courtesy of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute)

  • Sylvia Manheim holds up a shirt that says: “Still, she insisted. (Courtesy of the Manheim family)

  • Sylvia Manheim, Sitzzentrum, with her three children, grandchildren and in-laws. (Courtesy of the Manheim family)

  • Seniors during a music course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. (Courtesy of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute)

“We will set a new date for the celebration where we can safely get together,” he said. “When we return to class on Monday (January 3rd) we will only have distance learning for two weeks until we find out what the university is going to do, and then we will align with what CSULB is doing.”

OLLI was fortunate to still have Barbara White as executive director to help us through these troubled times, Libby said. White has announced her resignation, but she has agreed to stay until a successor is found.

When Manheim and her friends had the idea for a senior university, they looked for Dr. Donald Lauda, ​​Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at CSULB, to find a meeting place and help set up a governance structure. The Senior University was officially opened in October 1996. About 150 people signed up for three courses: memoir writing, current affairs, and biotechnology.

In the past 25 years, membership has peaked at more than 2,000 pre-pandemic, with a curriculum expanded to include an online / face-to-face combination of 62 eclectic and diverse courses. There are a variety of lectures on topics from the fields of art, history, science, politics, fitness, economics, health, religion, handicrafts and philosophy.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, OLLI has continued to offer online courses on a myriad of topics, including watercolor painting, jewelry making, current events, justice, technology, music and art rating, movies, fitness, and more. Computer courses are also becoming increasingly popular.

The 2,000 members split their time nearly 50-50 between in-person and online classes, Libby said.

“The introduction of distance learning through Zoom has been well received by many of our members,” said Libby. “Zoom should be in the OLLI repertoire for the foreseeable future. Some members like to stay in their pajamas while studying. “

Online home learning is also more appealing when you don’t want to try to find parking space on the crowded CSULB campus.

OLLI is a non-profit organization and is open to adults aged 50 and over. The membership fee is $ 40 per year. Tuition for all classes is $ 15.

In 2006, the Senior University changed its name to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute after the Bernard Osher Foundation donated $ 1 million to the university.

Manheim is happy about the success of the senior university.

“It’s exciting to see so many people keep learning and staying active,” she told me over the phone from her Long Beach home.

Manheim spoke about her childhood and how that affected her activism.

She was born Sylvia Nuchow on August 28, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrants from Russia and Poland. When she was 2 years old, her family moved to a workers’ cooperative community in the Bronx known as “Coops”.

Most of the residents are Jewish socialists from Eastern Europe who have fled persecution in their home countries.

“During my childhood I experienced the Great Depression and mourned the families I lost in the Holocaust: aunts, uncles and grandparents,” she said. “Life in the Coops has really shaped the person I am today. We went on marches for equal rights and equal pay. “

In 1944, while working as a hostess at a USO dance party, she met her future husband, Jerry Manheim, a Chicago soldier who was on leave from his station in France, and fell in love with him.

After the war, she followed him to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where they married, and he continued his mathematics studies while she studied anthropology.

“Many of the students have joined the civil rights movement,” said Manheim. “We often accompanied our black colleagues and friends to restaurants in disregard of the racial segregation laws. Getting arrested for civil disobedience became a regular pastime for me. “

While raising three children, Manheim worked odd jobs and received a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in consulting. She said her family became “academic nomads” when her husband moved to educational positions in northern Michigan, teaching Native Americans to read, and at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where she taught elementary school children.

Her nomadic existence ended in 1971 when her husband was hired as dean for literature and science at the CSULB.

Instead, Manheim found jobs at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall teaching young men to read and then a radio talk show at Long Beach City College called Senior Connection. She then set up a breast self-exam training program at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.

“In my 20 years there,” she says, “we have trained well over 25,000 women to examine their own bodies.”

After retiring from Memorial, she and others decided to create a college for seniors.

“We went everywhere, to churches, gardening clubs and everywhere, and used word of mouth to tell people about our new university,” said Manheim. “We grew there.”

She praised OLLI for keeping her thoughts active.

“I have developed from a founder to a loyal student,” said Manheim. “The wonderful teachers at OLLI keep you busy. I made new friends. I keep up to date with current events. It’s a real love affair. “

Manheim told me that the loss of her eyesight and ability to read was “awful, scary and frightening”.

“I can’t read what I’ve loved all my life,” she said, “but I’m good at listening.”

After 65 years of marriage, her husband died in 2011. She is very happy about her three children, said Manheim: Karl, professor of constitutional law at the University of Biola; Lisa, who is an artist and professional yoga teacher based in Philadelphia; and Camryn, an Emmy Award-winning actress who just signed a five-year deal with the hit television show Law and Order. “

She also loves it when her grandchildren – Noah, Micah, and Milo – call them Bubbie, the Yiddish word for grandma.

“I’ve lived a long life and done a lot of things,” said Manheim. “It was an extraordinary trip and it was worth the effort. I would do everything again. “

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