Julia Cayuso, a Compassionate and Engaged Leader

By Barbara Gutierrez

Julia Cayuso, a Compassionate and Engaged Leader

By Barbara Gutierrez
The director of the University of Miami's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, who passed away April 13, leaves an enduring legacy in "the best job'' she ever had.

Julia Cayuso, Ed.D., the director of the University of Miami’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and a renowned leader in the field of adult education, passed away on April 13 from injuries following an accidental fall.

 Cayuso, 60, who worked at the University for more than 29 years, is credited with growing the institute that provides academic courses and activities to Miami-area adults over age 50 by 140 percent since taking its helm in 2013. Today, OLLI’s membership stands at 1,200.

“Julia has been an integral and important part of the Division of Continuing and International Education (DCIE) in a variety of roles for several decades,” said DCIE Dean Rebecca MacMillan Fox. “Her rebuilding, reenergizing and care for OLLI and its members has been truly transformative. It has become a national model for continuous learning. In the past five years, Julia successfully increased member satisfaction and engagement, year-to-year membership retention, and initiated OLLI’s first fundraising campaign. 

“She was passionate about her work. Every time I met with her, she said this was the best job she ever had.”

OLLI is supported by The Bernard Osher Foundation, which recently awarded it two $1 million dollar endowments and a bridge grant, but Cayuso empowered the members to take charge of the center. She established a network of volunteers who could provide input into the curriculum, membership, and social events under her leadership. She also encouraged members to teach, participate on committees, attend events and provide welcome feedback and suggestions for new OLLI enterprises.
“She was a friend,” said Lucy Harper, who with her husband, Edwin Harper, a former aide to two U.S. presidents and a retired corporate executive, have been active in OLLI for about six years. “Her love of people permeated everything and she was a capable leader who expanded all the programs and got additional funding for us as well.” 

At a Wednesday luncheon for OLLI instructors and volunteers at Lau Founders Hall, where the institute meets, OLLI member John (Jack) Richards raised his glass and proposed a toast “for Julia” to 30 fellow members. “She was the best leader we ever had,” he said. 

Cayuso began working at UM as a faculty member in the Intensive English Program, where she also served as a research associate, coordinator and assistant director of the Intensive Language Institute. In 2013, she became director of the OLLI program.

Cayuso was respected and influential in the intensive English language program arena, which serves international students. From 2003 to 2005, she was one of 13 commissioners on the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), the only specialized accreditation agency for intensive English language programs in the U.S. In tribute to her leadership, Cayuso was elected chair of the commission in 2006.
She embraced CEA’s quality mission for U.S. intensive English programs serving international students and for such programs in international settings, and upon completion of her elected CEA service, she continued as a site reviewer. In 2013, she was asked to serve as the CEA-assigned representative on site review teams.
Cayuso was also instrumental in the University’s recent accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, helping to demonstrate compliance with the requirements related to student achievement and continuing education. She volunteered to help and was eager to learn new things. She worked collaboratively with Sabrina Rembold and Patty Murphy to develop the University’s Student Achievement website.

Previously, Cayuso taught English to adult learners in Virginia and Florida as well as in Bogota, Colombia. 

Her expertise on continuing education and adult learning took her to speak at several community forums, including most recently, the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove. In March, she was chosen as one of the three finalists for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Educator Award. 

Cayuso earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education at UM, where she was awarded the prestigious Outstanding Doctoral Student in Higher Education, a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida.

Cayuso is survived by her husband, Roberto, son, William, and daughter, Sophia. Funeral arrangements were still pending.