Retired BU faculty members sponsor folk dancing course

Date:  February 24, 2005

BLOOMSBURG—Two retired Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania faculty members with a love of folk dancing have taken a step to ensure that students may continue to learn the art that has been their passion for nearly three decades.

Husband and wife Oliver Larmi and Anne Wilson of Bloomsburg taught philosophy and sociology at BU, but outside the classroom they enjoyed dancing, from ballroom to international styles. Dance took them to other countries and introduced them to fellow dancers. It also spurred them to provide scholarships for international students.

Wilson instructed a folk dancing course at BU toward the end of her teaching career, assisted by her husband. The couple didn’t want it to end with Wilson’s retirement last spring, so they decided to provide funding through the Bloomsburg University Foundation to cover the salary of an instructor to teach two sections of the 1-credit course each semester.

“Dance is their passion,” said Hsien-Tung Liu, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “They are both excellent dancers and they enjoyed teaching the folk dance class. But, after they retired, the exercise science department didn’t have anyone else who could teach it.”

The couple wanted the course to continue, Liu said, believing that students not only gained a background in dance but also a better understanding of other cultures. Started in fall 2004, their gift to the BU Foundation covers the salary of a part-time instructor; their goal is to set up an endowment.

Jim Hollister, assistant vice president for university relations, sees this kind of generosity as a means to offer courses that the university couldn’t otherwise provide. “This is an imaginative way to give funds to Bloomsburg,” he said. “Donors can provide support for something that meets both their passion and the university’s mission.”

For Wilson and Larmi, that’s International Folk Dance, course number 05.220. 

“I believe this is one of the university's most practical courses for lifetime fitness,” Wilson said. “It is something everybody can enjoy at any age, even if they are not good at other sports.”

This is a philosophy the couple is following in retirement. They recently returned from a week of dancing in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students and offers 65 bachelor’s, 17 master’s and one doctoral degree.