Bernard Osher, businessman and longtime philanthropist, will be awarded an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters by California State University, East Bay, Saturday, June 11, during commencement ceremonies for the university’s College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences.
Osher, who started the San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation in 1977, has been a major supporter of higher education and the arts ever since. In 2002, the Foundation began funding the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSUEB and, at present, supports nearly 120 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska. Over the past several years, the Foundation has awarded CSUEB both annual operating grants as well as two $1 million endowment grants to support the lifelong learning program and to establish Osher Reentry Scholarships which benefit older students returning to complete their baccalaureate degrees. The Osher scholarship program is administered within the University's PACE (Program for Accelerated College Education) program.
The Osher Foundation has been a major contributor to postsecondary education throughout California. The 2008 Osher Initiative for California Community College Students has provided $25 million in scholarship funding for all 112 community college campuses and includes a 2 to 1 matching feature for funds raised in support of endowed scholarships by June 30, 2011. Osher's goal with the Initiative was to establish a $100 million scholarship fund to support the students of California's community colleges in perpetuity. Osher also has generously supported institutions of higher education across the United States with an emphasis on scholarships, lifelong learning, and integrative medicine.
Mr. Osher has been a generous benefactor who has focused on education for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds here in California and throughout the nation,” said Mohammad H. Qayoumi, Cal State East Bay president. “We are grateful for Mr. Osher’s support here at CSUEB and are honored to be able to bestow on him the CSU’s highest honor.”
A native of Biddeford, Maine, and a graduate of Bowdoin College, Osher has had a successful career in business, beginning with the management of his family's hardware and plumbing supplies store in Maine and continuing at Oppenheimer & Company in New York. After moving to California, he became a founding director of World Savings, once the second largest savings institution in the United States. World Savings merged with the Wachovia Corporation in 2006.
A collector of American paintings of the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, Osher purchased the fine art auction house of Butterfield & Butterfield in 1970 and oversaw its growth to become the fourth largest auction house in the world. In 1999 he sold the company to eBay.