New Executive Director of National Resource Center Named
Steven Thaxton to lead the support center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes
In his new role as executive director, Thaxton will oversee the support system for the 119 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, which are housed in academic institutions around the country.
Northwestern’s Osher Institute, which is operated by the School of Professional Studies, serves nearly 1,050 adults over age 50 on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. The curriculum includes everything from literature and history to science, politics, current affairs, philosophy and the arts.
“Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes’ programs are growing due to their reputation for quality and because retiring baby boomers are seeking stimulating intellectual experiences,” said Thaxton. “Through digital and personal support, the National Resource Center will help Osher Institutes not just grow, but thrive.”
Osher Institute programs are designed for seasoned adults who are looking for camaraderie and challenging college level courses but don’t care about grades, certificates or degrees. Nationwide, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes serve more than 142,000 members, making it a premium brand in senior adult learning, Thaxton said.
The National Resource Center serves as the national headquarters for the network of lifelong learning institutions, facilitating communication among the Institutes and sharing information on effective educational programming for older learners. The center also organizes the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes’ national conference – the largest in the field -- every 18 months.
Members in Osher classes, “love to learn,” said Thaxton. “They’re at a point in their lives when academic credit takes a backseat to the simple pleasure of learning and sharing knowledge with peers in a stimulating academic environment.”
The classes also offer social and leadership opportunities, Thaxton said. “Members create communities where they can engage in deep and meaningful debate or simply come together to informally discuss interesting topics.”
Thaxton succeeds longtime director Kali Lightfoot, the founding director of the Osher Institutes’ National Resource Center, who retired last year from the University of Southern Maine (USM). In October of 2014, the center was relocated from USM to Northwestern, which received a sizable endowment from The Bernard Osher Foundation.
Northwestern has the distinction of housing four Osher programs. In addition to the National Resource Center and the Lifelong Learning Institute, Northwestern Medicine is home to the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, which supports clinical care, research and medical education. Northwestern students also benefit form generous scholarship funds made possible by the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program.
Prior to coming to Northwestern, Thaxton was a senior executive manager and leader in the media and broadcasting industry. “Steve’s background in strategic planning, innovation, marketing and organization training and development can help transform the NRC into a cutting-edge support center,” said Thomas F. Gibbons, dean of the School of Professional Studies.
During his career, Thaxton served as the vice president/general manager of Scripps TV stations in Ohio and president and general manager of Gannett Broadcasting stations in Maine. With over 15 years of senior executive management and leadership experience, he has led media organizations in change management, program development, and multi-platform growth through digital and new media products.
Thaxton has also served as an advisor and board member for numerous nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way of Greater Portland, the Salvation Army, Southern Maine Community College and the University of Southern Maine.
Most recently, Thaxton helped the Institute staff at the University of Southern Maine transition to an online-based registration system. He will receive his master’s degree in adult and higher education from the USM-Portland in 2015.
Thaxton has, of course, continued his own personal development by taking a host of seminars and classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USM. His favorite? A class called “Designing the Life You Want: Navigating Your Third Age” which stressed positive aging and late life careers.
“I’m the epitome of an encore career,” he said. “I now consider myself an educator.”