Mary Szaroleta took a circuitous route to the director’s position at the Osher Life Long Learning Institute at Eckerd College.
While working at JMC Communities, she decided to consider volunteering.
“I wanted to go look at the museums in the area, but I also needed some help in understand- ing museum background.” She started volunteering at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and took classes at Eckerd PEL (Program for Experienced Learners) including museum studies which helped her land a job in the MFA development department then in marketing.
“Long story short I was working in a program with OLLI and it just came up that the position was open. I felt like I was at a point where I wanted to challenge myself. It seemed a very engaging, inter- esting position, and it has been.”
Now about four months into the job, she is looking forward to OLLI’s summer session. “We have a lot of different and exciting courses for summer. It’s a variety from past summers and a very robust program.”
Among the 2018 OLLI summer classes offered are “Jerome Robbins: Master of Movement,” “The ‘isms’ of Modern Art,” “Casablanca: The Making of a Classic,” “UFOs: Fact or Fiction?” “How the Railroads Changed Florida,” “The Musical Artistry of Vienna,” “A History of Florida’s Hurricanes,” “Music Man: The Life and Shows of Meredith Wilson,” “Al Hirschfield: Master Caricaturist” and an “Overview of U.S. Navy Submarines.”
In addition, two classic American film comedies — Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot,” will be shown in the Eckerd College Miller Auditorium with HD digital projection. A bus day trip on May 22 Bali: Exploring the Hindu Temple of Florida,” and on Aug. 28, there’s a guided tour of the James Museum, St. Petersburg’s newest cultural destination.
Most classes and activity fees vary from $10-$45 for OLLI members. Non-member fees are also available.
Registration has grown exponentially and Szaroleta is impressed with their membership.
“They are very passionate about this program, I think they all feel like they are part of that specialness that OLLIi has. In the first month I was asking, ‘How did you join?’ and for a lot of them it was word-of-mouth, but then they quickly saw that it was like a family atmosphere; they were making friends, making those connections here that they had to leave when they move down and retired. It’s just an amazing group of individuals and a lot of talent. There’s so much potential here.”
While she has plenty of ideas about future things to do, mums the word with the exception of developing new partnerships.
“It’s still very new, but we want to work with other organizations and see how we can col- laborate on venue or program space.” They are working with the James Museum which has class- room space to see how they can bring some programs downtown and they already partner with Westminster communities and Top of the Word in Clearwater.
She encourages anyone who thinks they have expertise in an area that might align with OLLI programs to contact the OLLI office or visit them online where they have a course proposal form.
For more information go to www.eckerd.edu/olli.