Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNT hosted its annual Faculty Appreciation Dinner Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Robson Ranch.
Led by OLLI at UNT senior director Stephanie Reinke, the event brought together special guests including UNT Provost Michael McPherson to celebrate the instructors whose passion and expertise drive the success of OLLI at UNT.
“Everything we do at UNT is guided by our mission to create transformative learning experiences for the diverse communities we serve,” McPherson said. “Nowhere is that mission being pursued with more creativity and enthusiasm than at OLLI at UNT. OLLI members come to UNT to learn just for the joy of it, and our instructors go above and beyond to spark that joy.”
During the event, McPherson presented Andrew Torget, associate professor of history, with the inaugural Provost’s OLLI at UNT Faculty Award. McPherson created the award, which includes a $500 reward and a commemorative gift, to recognize an instructor who has displayed exceptional commitment to teaching and service to OLLI at UNT during the past year.
“Dr. Torget has been deeply engaged in OLLI at UNT for years, and he’s earned a reputation for his ability to bring history to life,” McPherson said. “He’s always thinking of new ways to create unforgettable experiences for our OLLI members, and he dedicated an immense amount of his time, resources and creativity to OLLI at UNT in 2022. I am delighted to name him the first winner of the Provost’s OLLI at UNT Faculty Award.”
Torget, who has been part of the UNT faculty since 2009, teaches classes on Texas history, the Old South, American expansion, slavery, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and digital scholarship. He is a 2023 Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association, and The Dallas Morning News named him a finalist for “Texan of the Year” in 2021 for the “uncommon, inspirational impact” of his research.
“I feel deeply humbled by this award,” Torget said. “OLLI draws on so many amazing, dedicated and gifted faculty at UNT, and I feel lucky just to be among them.”
Throughout the past year, Torget brought Texas history to life in OLLI classes such as Texas During WWII, Cowboys and Cattle Drives, Creating Stephen F. Austin’s Colony, and Rise and Fall of the Republic of Texas.
In June, he led 55 OLLI members on a guided history tour tracing the steps of the Texas revolution. The trip, titled “Revolutionary Road: Exploring the Landscape of the Texas Revolution,” took participants through locations of significant historical value, including the Alamo, Mission San Jose, the Battle of Gonzales battleground, the storied San Fernando church, the site of the infamous Goliad Massacre, San Felipe de Austin and the San Jacinto battleground.
His professional connections and masterful knowledge of Texas history made the trip a one-of-a-kind learning experience, with one OLLI member calling it “exceptional from start to finish” and another stating, “Dr. Torget has a real love for the subject and the heart and soul of a storyteller.”
It’s clear the inspiration flows both ways. “Teaching with OLLI is an absolute joy because you'll never find more enthusiastic and engaged students than those in an OLLI classroom,” said Torget. “I've come to know so many of the regulars in my classes over the years that each session feels like a reunion that I look forward to each and every time.”
A 2023 U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Torget will travel to Germany at the end of March for a four-month teaching fellowship at the University of Bremen, where he will teach courses on American history, the history of slavery in the U.S. and the history of German migration to Texas during the 19th century. While there, Torget will advance his research on German migration to Texas in the German Emigration Center archives for his forthcoming book about how the rise and fall of 19th century Galveston was key to the development of the American Southwest.
About OLLI at UNT
UNT has offered non-credit courses to the public for decades, but the journey to OLLI at UNT officially began when James R. Miller, former dean of UNT’s College of Education, founded the Emeritus College in Fall 2009. His goal was to one day earn designation as an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Powered by Miller’s vision and UNT’s strong community partnerships, Emeritus College grew rapidly. In 2016, UNT’s program joined the network of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, and OLLI at UNT was born.
Backed by a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation and led by senior director Stephanie Reinke, OLLI at UNT continues to expand its reach and innovative curriculum. Its more than 1,200 members can enjoy virtual or in-person classes with faculty, area professionals and passionate subject matter experts at satellite classrooms in Denton, Frisco, Dallas, Lantana, Flower Mound and Keller. Visit the OLLI at UNT website to learn more and get involved.