Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

Paul Christy looks forward to the day when he will welcome people through these doors of the restored Holly Theater.

Have you started thinking about retiring? To explore different answers and approaches to this question, I recently talked with Paul Christy about his pre- and post-retirement experiences, as well as his belief in lifelong learning.

Christy spent his working years in his hometown of Washington, D.C., largely in federal agencies, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Commerce Department and the Small Business Administration. He noted the importance of considering the retirement years well in advance.

“I started thinking about what the next phase of my life would be like about 10 years before I actually retired by volunteering as a docent at places I liked to visit — the Smithsonian, the National Building Museum and the National Shrine. Those experiences made me realize how much I could continue to learn and give back. So when I did retire in 2014, I moved right into a stream of activities in the D.C. area that kept me learning about the world around me and myself.”

Christy continued volunteering when he got to the Rogue Valley in 2016. A key volunteer role in which he engaged soon after his arrival led him in an entirely new direction.

“I helped out at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for three years, learning about marketing and development,” he said. “What was unexpected was eventually being tapped to serve as interim executive director there from 2019 to 2020.”

That’s one exciting next path, but there’s more. About the same time as Christy began volunteering at OSF, he discovered and connected with Osher Lifelong Learning at Southern Oregon University. When asked how he learned about the program, he said that he saw a notice from OLLI at SOU advertising for instructors. He decided to apply and developed an OLLI course on Oregon and the U.S. Civil War.

“I knew a lot about the war, but not about Oregon’s involvement. That gave me focus and inspiration to start teaching,” he said.

Offering that one course in fall 2016 led to teaching other courses and taking OLLI classes. Christy got so enthused about the interaction with OLLI members and OLLI leadership that he joined the Curriculum Committee and eventually became its chair. That experience taught him a lot about OLLI’s classes and instructors and how important networking can be to staying on top of your game as you age.

Despite Christy’s significant commitments at OSF, which reduced his availability to teach and have a leadership role at OLLI, he continues to take classes.

“I’m always meeting new people through OLLI, and that refreshes my thinking and keeps me challenged,” he said when asked what keeps him involved. “On my own I tend to seek effortless relationships — enjoying my family, my longtime friends, my neighbors. OLLI challenges me to step out and make the effort to understand and relate to others and appreciate their viewpoints. And I think that’s one recipe for staying youthful.”

The connections established through OSF and OLLI have provided Christy with more ways to continue learning and be active.

“I was honored to be asked to join the board of the Rogue Valley Symphony, and also to become an advisor to the effort to rebuild the historic Holly Theatre in Medford,” he commented. “At the Holly, I’m working to launch the final construction phase and open to live performances in the next year or so and bring a new spark of development to the downtown area.”

I immediately started thinking about what a great venue this might be for some OLLI events, and as we wrapped up our conversation, I wondered whether he had any tips about lifelong learning, especially for someone starting to think about retiring and finding their next path.

“We’re always learning throughout our lives” he said, “whether we call it lifelong learning or not. I think what’s important to consider is how we can share what we learn with others, and how we can channel our learning so that we build on our knowledge. For me, OLLI provides that low-impact, friendly structure to make connections with others while I’m improving myself. I’ll be an OLLI member for life.”

As Christy discovered, there are many stimulating and rewarding opportunities in the Rogue Valley for staying engaged after retirement. If you’re looking for your next path, want to expand or share your knowledge, or make social connections, Paul would suggest OLLI at SOU as a great place to do that. Check out all that OLLI has to offer at

Laura Simonds, a former marketing and sales professional in the publishing industry, volunteers on the OLLI Communications and Community Outreach Committee.

By senior