For most of his life, Jon Neidy has been both a student and an educator. It’s only fitting that inspiring people to learn throughout their entire life is what Jon does every day at Bradley University through his role as the Associate Director of Continuing Education and his work with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Jon grew up in Macomb and attended undergraduate school at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where he received a degree in Elementary Education. Following graduation, he worked at the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora.
Returning to MacMurray as a professor and director of the gifted program brought him back to Jacksonville until 1998, when he began working at The Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR) at Bradley University in Peoria.
Since then, Jon has continued working at Bradley and earned his master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Bradley. He is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Administration at Illinois State University.
Jon’s personal interest in both learning and in art is embodied in his work. He has a personal art collection of two-dimensional art from various local artists as well as from around the country.
The Fine Art Fair, held by the Peoria Art Guild every year, gives Jon a chance to volunteer his own time and contribute to the arts. He is responsible for facilitating the jury selection process and coordinating judges during the event.
Much of Jon’s work is with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which was renamed from the ILR. The Institute is funded by The Bernard Osher Foundation, which supports a network of programs around the country. The programs provided by OLLI are for people over the age of 50 to continue learning even after retirement.
OLLI offers classes, learning trips, lectures and special events, Sunday cinema, and study groups on a multitude of topics including history, fine arts, literature, and science. OLLI has been offering classes since 1994, when they offered a class on music and a class on art.
Since the beginning of the program, they have always placed an emphasis on the arts. “The OLLI program has always been very involved in the arts,” said Jon.
Some class offerings for the spring which focus on fine arts are “Photography — How Did They Do That?”, “The Creative Process,” “Calligraphy,” and “Drawing and Sketching.” They are also offering a study group titled “Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art.”
Local artists are featured in many of the OLLI classes and members can take a variety of trips to arts shows, local artist’s studios, theatre productions and museums in the Peoria area as well as Chicago, the Quad Cities, and St. Louis.
Jon said that many of the members of OLLI enjoy taking the fine arts related classes because they didn’t get a chance to explore their creativity earlier in life because of school and work.
“The people who attend OLLI specifically are sometimes busier than I am; they are very engaged in their communities,” said Jon. “Many of them volunteer and give of their time and themselves to their volunteer organizations. OLLI is a place where they can come and get something back. They are having a need met by attending OLLI—a learning need, a socialization need—and I think that’s what we give to them.”
As for the people he works with, Jon said they make all the difference. “In my work with OLLI specifically, the volunteers are an amazing group of people,” said Jon. “So it’s absolutely their interest and their commitment to lifelong learning that keeps me going. They are inspirational in their commitment.”