By Elaine Omann
Jeanette Toohey, a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Rhode Island, has been director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, known as OLLI, at the University of North Florida since 2010. In her first career, she was an art historian who worked as a museum curator. Toohey has served on a variety of boards and committees for local, regional and national associations and nonprofit organizations. She was named one of Jacksonville’s “Women of Influence” in 2012 and received the American Association of Museums’ award for “Excellence in Peer Review Service” in 2006.
- What perspective do you have as the director of OLLI? What would be your next step to promote?
The first will be providing more opportunities for our members to socialize with one another and expand their personal networks. The second area of growth will be expanding our volunteer corps. All of our instructors are volunteers who share their passion and expertise. Recruiting new instructors helps us keep our program schedule dynamic and diverse.
- Have you been an instructor and could you describe your interest or passion?
I enjoy teaching and facilitating programs. This term I organized a program that combines two of my passions. I will offer a bicycle tour of Riverside and Avondale through e2Ride. The company’s owner, Leigh Burdett, kindly arranged for Riverside Avondale Preservation to provide our members with an overview of their work. History is an expertise from my first career.
- How do you direct all the details, organization and crucial pieces and manage your time for all these diverse functions?
I’m very fortunate to have two incredible resources supporting our program. The first is the fabulous volunteer leaders that advance our strategic plan and manage volunteer operations. The second is UNF’s Division of Continuing Education which hosts our program. This supports our customer and organization needs and the people are amazing.
- Do you see 50 year olds and 60 year old getting involved based on their work schedules?
Our members range in age from 50 to 98. Some time ago we recognized the importance of offering programs and volunteer opportunities of interest to all in our demographic. We have more programs that range from one to six weeks. In addition, we have diversified the formats of our programming. Some members enjoy lectures, others like highly interactive experiences and yet others prefer opportunities to travel or be outdoors. Over the past seven years we’ve experienced a steady influx of members who are still working.
- What do you do for hobbies, fun, relaxation or enjoyment?
I love to ride my bike or take long walks when the weather is good and my passion is reflected in the bike tour course. When it’s not so good I enjoy reading non-fiction. It’s always a special treat to take daylong stay-cations to St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach and other wonderful places in our area.
Photo courtesy Gary Whiting