New Executive Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Catherine Frank was recently named executive director of UNC Asheville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (NCCCR), succeeding Ron Manheimer, the founding director who retired last year. NCCCR, now in its 24th year, offers a wide range of lifelong learning opportunities to people of all ages and has 1,800 members. Long considered a national model for lifelong learning, the Center and its programs have been highlighted on CBS Sunday Morning, and in USA Today, Wall Street Journal and other national publications.
Previously, Frank served as director of Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She holds a doctorate in English from UNC-Chapel Hill. She also served for six years as executive director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill.
Following are some excerpts from a conversation with Frank during her first week in her new position at UNC Asheville:
What have been your first impressions of NCCCR?
The Center is a lovely facility built by volunteers. It is a humbling experience to enter a community like that. However, that is the kind of community I come from at Duke, where people have created a program for themselves and for others who want to share this endeavor of lifelong learning. I think that’s very exciting.
I am also very excited about the programs for civic engagement for older adults. I have to tell you that a highlight of this first week was sitting in on a planning meeting for the Leadership Asheville Seniors group. We had a very frank but ultimately very friendly, joyful discussion about the ways we might create greater diversity of participants in this program.
How do you plan to further incorporate the Center into the University?
It’s probably not unfamiliar for people working in continuing education to see themselves as the step-children of their institutions. But I absolutely do not feel that is the case here. It is so invigorating to me to really feel that everybody from the chancellor on down is committed to seeing the Center’s work fit into other work going on here at the University.
I think we will have new opportunities to create models of ways to work together. For example, the Center has an incredible wealth of knowledge of people who have served in so many different professions. I hope we can find a way within the University’s framework and needs to allow that wisdom to be shared.
Are you committed to continuing the intergenerational work of the Center?
Absolutely! And I hope I can find new ways to do it.
I think it is very important for people who are older to open their minds to new things, to challenge the way they’ve always thought, and the way they’ve always done things. But I also think in an aging society that it’s incredibly important for younger people to learn to understand and respect older adults and begin to grasp that they have lots of things they can talk about. I think all those sorts of conversations are what we can foster at the Center in a variety of ways.
Will you continue to offer the Paths to Creative Retirement workshop and the Creative Retirement Exploration Weekend?
The national reputation of the Center is in many ways built on those programs. And I understand that those are big shoes that I have to fill because Ron (Manheimer) did such amazing things in that capacity!
I am grateful to be able to step into a program that is doing so well. And hope I can find ways to take those programs that are working, continue their success and then look for some new directions and new programs, too. For instance, we are working on trying to create these programs so that our volunteers have a really active lead in structuring and facilitating them.
The Reuter Center is the home of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. What is your vision for the building itself?
I came from a little 1906 frame house at the very edge of the Duke campus. My view for awhile, until the magnolia trees grew, was of the Duke lacrosse house. And here I can look out on Mt. Pisgah! So my vision is just to enjoy it for a little while.
On a serious note, I think there probably are ways that we can make this building feel like home to everybody. That’s the one vision I would like to have. I’d like to walk down stairs and not just see our members, but I would like to see students from campus. I would like to see people from the community who haven’t felt at home here. I would just like them all to feel that this is a welcoming space.
What do you like to do when you’re not in the office?
I have taught courses in Victorian literature and memoir writing and I would like to do so again. Although it sounds like work, it’s fun to me.
I also enjoy the crafts in Western North Carolina and hope to get to go on open studio tours. I love to cook so I hope to take some time to prepare and eat local food. And I'm looking forward to getting out and enjoying some of the local scenery.
Do you have family with you here?
My husband Roy Fauber and eight-year-old daughter Emma will be joining me in Asheville soon. And I think Roy promised our daughter a dog when we get settled, but I'm hoping we can start with a goldfish and work our way up!
Any final comments?
I really believe in lifelong learning and in a liberal arts education. I am really excited to be at a place that stands up loud and proud and says, “We’re the public liberal arts institution.”
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute