By: Amy Dickey, Program Coordinator
Infectious Laughter with a Love for Learning
Every now and then if you are lucky enough, a person who is completely selfless, possessing a childlike joy, will enter your world and your life will be forever changed. Since Nancy Allard set foot into her first OLLI class, OLLI and its members have been forever changed by her kindness, warm welcoming laughter and passion for learning.
Nancy was born in the sunshine state. Despite her Florida roots, she spent most of her life moving around the country as a Navy brat. Nancy lived on all four coasts before her eighteenth birthday. Her greatest memories with her family growing up were during the days spent next to the ocean.
“I remember being in the ocean when I was little. I got overturned in a wave, and my dad pulled me out of the water and put me on the shore. He made sure I was okay and told me to go back in so I would not be afraid of water and so I did. It was lovely and, as a result, I have absolutely no fear of water,” Nancy said. In that moment, Nancy’s father taught her an unforgettable skill she has carried with her throughout her life: how to overcome her fears.
Nancy has been married to her husband, Jim, for 58 years. Throughout their half century together, their family has grown from three children to now four grandchildren. “I love these grandkids and I love my kids.”
A Passion for Lifelong Education
Since 1956, Nancy and Jim have called Norman their permanent home. After her youngest was two-years-old, Nancy’s education became a priority and her passion for lifelong learning was ignited. She enrolled at the University of Oklahoma.
“I love OU,” she said. “Having to grow up the way I did, I was never very connected. But I was a great adapter.
Over eight years, Nancy earned her undergraduate degree in sociology and her master’s degree in social work. She did several post graduate trainings with the Menninger Foundation in Kansas, which led her to open her own private practice, where she practiced clinical social work until her retirement. For two years Jim and Nancy traveled around the United States in a motor home. After 730 days of constant travel, the pair fell in love with Angel Fire, New Mexico, and bought a condo where they could spend their summers away from Norman.
After a lifetime of traveling, Nancy took an interest in learning about the history of the places, how things are and how they come together. Not long after, she was introduced to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Oklahoma.
A Decade with OLLI
After attending a workshop at St. Stephens United Methodist Church in Norman, Nancy’s interest in the New Testament of the Bible expanded. Her interest continued to be fueled after taking Barbara Boyd’s Understanding the Bible. “She did a fantastic job. She was very focused. She went through the Gospels, when they took place and who wrote them,” Nancy said. “After Barbara Boyd, along came Kyle Harper’s History of Christianity, which was, an awesome class on a topic about which I still have an interest in.”
Since 2006, when Nancy was first introduced to the OLLI program, her intellectual curiosity has expanded. She is most interested in history. “How and why do people do what they do?” Over the past eight years, Nancy averages ten courses a semester.
“OLLI is so open and so easy and the staff is so considerate, she said. “When you get old you need a little consideration. There is a real recognition that people are older. The professors’ enthusiasm for teaching the old folks is just awesome; the professors love it.”
When asked what was unique from other programs designed for people 50 and older, she stated, “There is so much available knowledge that is being presented to us, some in the form of discussions, but you don’t have to discuss if you don’t want to. The environment is flexible, yet structured. You can come or not. You can listen or not and you don’t have to take any tests.”
Lifelong learning has become a part of her daily routine, enhancing her knowledge and introducing her to new areas that she wants to learn about that she had not thought about before, especially in the areas of history and religion.
“I cannot imagine not learning. Lifelong learning has helped my mind, challenging me to think and talk about things that I could not talk about before,” she said.
Nancy Allard is well on her way to a decade of membership. Over the past eight years she has taken more than 100 courses and programs through OLLI at OU. Her love for the program can be seen every time she walks into the room, lighting it up with her infectious laughter, passion for learning and joy for life.