Penn State names Peggy Chown director of York OLLI program

July 08, 2015

Peggy L. Chown has been named the new director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Penn State York, an organization for adults who never want to stop experiencing life and learning.  Chown begins her position on Monday, July 27.

“Peggy brings to this position a solid background in leadership and strategic planning, an understanding and commitment to volunteerism, and more than 20 years of experience in higher education, both as a faculty member and an administrator leading three different adult-learning centers,” said Jim Korner, assistant vice president of Penn State professional and community education, and Chown’s supervisor. “She is a lifelong learner herself and is passionate about providing mature adults with educational and social enrichment opportunities that accentuate the joy of learning and personal fulfillment. In her role, she will be working with a team of volunteers to build on the strengths of the current program while considering new and unique ways to offer and deliver programs to the OLLI members,” he said.  

Chown will lead the 700-member organization that celebrates learning in a relaxed and accepting environment, which has been a part of the campus since 2007. Her experience includes working as a faculty member at public and private institutions. Prior to coming to York, Chown was the executive director of the Center for Distance Education (CDE) at Upper-Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa, where she directed highly successful online and independent study programs in support of more than 3,000 students.  Under her leadership, the CDE improved customer service, implemented academic quality initiatives, improved recruitment and advising, streamlined student accounts functions, and was a member of the Academic Extension Senior Management Team.

Her extensive higher education career includes working at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota; Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia; Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa; Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota; and University of Texas Health Science Center, Dallas, Texas.  Her experience also includes serving as a special assistant attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General, State of Minnesota, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Chown holds a juris doctor in law from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Dallas, Texas, and a bachelor of arts in political science from Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota.

“I was interested in OLLI because it is an organization that embraces the idea that you should never stop learning,” said Chown. I have spent almost two decades working with adult students and want to continue to convey the message that learning is a lifelong endeavor,” she said.  “It only makes sense that OLLI is part of a distinguished institution such as Penn State, and the future is bright for OLLI,” she said.

Chown supports the thrust of OLLI, which provides mature adults with a way to learn just for the love of it, and empowers instructors to share their passions with others. She hopes to continue to help OLLI members have fun and discover common interests and develop new ones.

Active in the York community, Chown serves on the board of the York County Literacy Council, the York Symphony and the Girl Scouts of the Heart of Pennsylvania. Prior to moving to York in 2013, she served on the boards of Habitat for Humanity in northeast Iowa, the YWCA in North Texas, and the Visiting Nurses Association of Dallas, Texas. She was also a gubernatorial appointment to the Minnesota Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution.

OLLI came to Penn State York in 2007, thanks to the efforts of three women -- Charmaine Kissinger, Olive Padden and the late Gussie Petron -- and their thirst for knowledge and mental stimulation. The idea of offering courses of interest during the day for adult learners without the stress of tests, requirements, and official textbooks appealed to the trio and thanks to their leadership, OLLI began offering courses in April 2008. Since that time the organization has continued to grow with a variety of daytime courses, bus trips, walking tours and other exciting activities.
OLLI is a nonprofit, mostly volunteer driven organization established to enrich the lives of mature adults living in York County by providing a variety of educational and social enrichment activities.  OLLI at Penn State York is one of more than 100 lifelong learning institutes across the nation that is supported by a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation. The grant was made available locally though Penn State which now has OLLI sites at University Park and York.

To cover costs, OLLI has a $50 yearly membership fee that covers two semesters and a fee for each course taken based on its length. OLLI courses are taught by volunteers who want to share their expertise and talents including college faculty members, hobbyists, artists, schoolteachers, and practicing professionals. The classes are offered during the day in a variety of formats with most meeting on the Penn State York campus.  

Course topics range from culture, literature, history and nature to politics, science, religion, healthy nutrition and travel. There is also a Knitting Club and other social events and trips planned throughout the year.

Call 717-771-4015 or email to receive registration and activity information.   Visit the website at to discover how to become a part of OLLI at Penn State York and never stop learning.

  • Peggy L. Chown 2015

    Peggy L. Chown has been named the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Penn State York.  She begins the position on Monday, July 27.

    IMAGE: Barbara Dennis
Last Updated July 10, 2015