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Insatiable Learner Wins Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s Betty Robertson Award

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A Titan with an appetite for learning is the recipient of the 2017 Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) Betty Robertson Award.

Sanford “Sandy” George graduated from Cal State Fullerton in May with a master’s degree in geography while attending simultaneous courses in religion at the University of Southern California, where he plans to earn his third bachelor’s degree.

“Everyone needs a hobby,” 65-year-old George said of his 12 years as a part-time student while employed with a company that manages internet access for USC and several large, private universities.

Shocked by the award, George said until the awards ceremony he had never experienced so much praise.

“They said so many nice things. For me that was very significant,” he said. “For my mom, who’s 88 and attended, it was very gratifying for her to see her oldest son earn a master’s degree.

“It definitely made me feel good,” he said. “When you get older, things don’t look quite as rosy as they did when you were young, so when you get something that makes getting older look good, it’s gratifying.”

George, who belongs to Theta Alpha Kappa and Phi Sigma Theta honor societies, has undergraduate degrees in interdisciplinary archaeology and geography. He received seven NASA awards while working on space flight projects at JPL/Caltech and has traveled to 23 countries.

He has worked as a volunteer on archaeology projects with the California State Parks and the Catalina Island Conservancy. His thesis research focused on economical ways to use virtual reality to provide immersive visualization of geographic physical and spiritual landscapes.

In retirement, “eventually,” George said, he’d like to teach at community colleges.

The Elizabeth “Betty” Robertson Award is named for one of OLLI’s founders — the former director of community and in-house programs in University Extended Education. In 1979, Robertson secured a grant to create an on-campus, self-supporting educational program that eventually became OLLI. The award named after her recognizes the achievements of an older graduate who values and represents lifelong learning.