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Bernard Osher (born 1927) is an American businessman, best known for his work as a philanthropist.
Life and career
A native of Biddeford, Maine, Osher studied at Bowdoin College, where he graduated in 1948. He spent his early years in southern Maine, owning and running a large hardware store on Main Street in Biddeford as well as a big summer amusement park called Palace Playland in nearby Old Orchard Beach. After having worked at Oppenheimer & Company in New York, he moved to California where he became a founding director of World Savings, which became the second largest savings institution in the United States. World Savings ultimately merged with the Wachovia Corporation. An avid art collector, Osher also purchased the auction house, Butterfield & Butterfield, which became the fourth-largest auction house in the world. In 1999, he sold the company to eBay.
In 2005, Forbes listed him as the 584th richest man in the world, and in 2006, they listed him as the 746th. Also, in the November 26, 2007 issue of Businessweek, he was listed as the 11th most generous philanthropist. The article cited the $805 million that he has given to arts, educational, and social services in his life.
Osher has been a notable philanthropist since 1977 when he founded the Bernard Osher Foundation. The foundation is a major supporter of higher education and the arts, Osher has consequently become known as "the quiet philanthropist." A recent initiative of the Foundation has funded over 120 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at universities and colleges in the United States since 2001.
His focus has been to advocate for good education, and he has funded projects in the state of Maine and his foster city, San Francisco, which involve education and the arts.
Since founding the Bernard Osher Foundation, nearly 80 percent of its grants have gone to support educational programs, and seventeen percent support arts organizations. his donations have gone towards causes such as scholarships for higher education through the Osher Fellows Program, and Scholarships for University Reentry Students aged 25 to 50 under his Osher Reentry Scholarship Program. Other causes include supporting programs addressing the educational needs of seasoned adults at institutions of higher education under the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Selected integrative medicine programs, and Arts and educational programs in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area and the State of Maine. $70 million in scholarships are given to California community college students, and $16 million worth of scholarships to the University of California at Berkeley's Incentive Awards Program, which helps poor students attend the university.
In 2006, the Bernard Osher Foundation donated $723.2 million in support of these and other programs, resulting in the creation of small programs in several institutions in the United States that promote lifelong learning. His $732 million donation earned him as The Chronicle of Philanthropy's third most generous donor in their annual survey of the largest donors in America.
Osher plans to give away his entire fortune, as he has no heirs, but would enjoy the opportunity of helping members of several generations lead more fulfilling lives by his contributions.
- Bernard Osher's Philanthropy Page. Faces of Philanthropy, accessed December 23, 2010.
- Profile of a ‘Quiet Philanthropist’: Bernard Osher. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, accessed December 23, 2010.
- Seth Lubove (1 March 2004). "Stick to Your Knitting". Forbes.com. Retrieved 21 July 2013.