Richard Kaplan

Richard Kaplan, the 64-year old president of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University, moved to Ashland nearly six years ago after 30 years in the Silicon Valley and still marvels at his good fortune.

"I was looking for a place to settle which would be welcoming, unique and culturally interesting," Kaplan says. "Ashland fit the bill."

Since coming to town, Kaplan has been busy. He started a mystery-book club, operates a video camera for Rogue Valley Television, volunteers with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and teaches at OLLI.

DT: What is OLLI?

RK: OLLI falls under the SOU division of continuing education. We offer about 90 courses each term in areas such as art history, personal development, government, history, investing, literature, music, science, technology, theater and writing. The organization is run by volunteers. Our success relies upon participants contributing their talents, skills and time. I joined in fall 2005 and began teaching ethics-related courses, a discipline I find most interesting.

DT: What specific ethics courses did you teach?

RK: I taught a class called Everyday Ethics and one called Infamous Experiments and Ethics in America. The class I enjoyed most was Infamous Experiments. It showed the need for having ethics-review boards at universities based on university experiments in the past that turned out to be harmful to students, like the Zimbardo experiment at Stanford. In it, students participated in a mock prison and they had to end the experiment early because the "guards" became too vicious with their "prisoners."

DT: What do you like about teaching?

RK: What is rewarding is the response I get from students. One of the differences between teaching people who are 50 or older, rather than college age, is that a lot of life experience is brought into the discussion. They have varied professional backgrounds and they can bring their particular experience to the ethical situation we are talking about.

DT: Are the classes strictly for retired people?

RK: Not at all. That's just perception. It's really open to anyone who can take classes during the day, which is more difficult for people who work traditional hours. So, we usually have more retired people, but you don't have to be retired. We'd certainly be interested in having more younger people.

DT: Do you have family members in the area?

RK: My parents live in Portland. I have a 29-year-old son, Jordan, who is an aspiring professional actor living in New York City. My fondest hope is that he may someday have the opportunity to be an OSF company member.

DT: Is there someone in your life who inspires you?

RK: Karen Clarke, my significant other, inspires me daily. After retiring from a career in banking, she moved to Ashland and started a new career. She is now an adjunct instructor in the SOU School of Business and heads up the Nonprofit Management Certificate Program. She did what she wanted to do, and all the while kept a sunny disposition. She is also a very caring individual. She is a great role model.

DT: What are some of your other interests?

RK: When I first moved to Ashland, I took up numerous outdoor activities such as tennis, fly-fishing, snowshoeing and hiking. While I still do some of these, I greatly enjoy participating in several book groups, one of which I co-founded. I also enjoy attending the Rogue Valley Symphony, Chamber Music Concerts and Siskiyou Institute jazz events, going to the Ashland Independent Film Festival and, of course, plays. Karen and I enjoy volunteering at the OSF Welcome Center and being part of the studio crew for the "Ashland Mystery RVTV Noir" and "Open Books Open Minds" shows on RVTV.

DT: Do you have trouble balancing your time with work, volunteering and activities?

RK: Yes, sometimes it's a challenge, but it's not bad. I'm retired so I have a lot of discretionary time.

DT: What are your plans for the future?

RK: I plan to continue teaching and taking courses at OLLI. Last year, I taught a series of courses on how wine is made, and I would like to do that again.

DT: Is there something in your work or personal life that you are especially proud of?

RK: Today, I am proud of the trust peers have placed in me to be president of OLLI at SOU. Personally, starting a new life here is something that I am proud of. Ashland is one of the few places you can do that. People are so welcoming and there are so many opportunities to get involved in the community.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at

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