Bernard Osher, a patron of education and the arts, is well known as “the quiet philanthropist.” He created the Bernard Osher Foundation in 1977 which seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. The Foundation provides postsecondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation. The Foundation also supports selected centers in integrative medicine at Harvard University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. In addition, the Foundation supports a growing national network of lifelong learning institutes for older adults. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, operating on the campuses of 115 colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii, have a National Resource Center at the University of Southern Maine. A local grants program provides support for arts and humanities institutions in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area and the State of Maine.
A native of Biddeford, Maine and a graduate of Bowdoin College, Osher has pursued a successful career in business, beginning with the management of his family’s hardware and plumbing supplies store in Maine and continuing with work at Oppenheimer & Company in New York before moving to California. There he became a founding director of World Savings, the second largest savings institution in the United States, which was recently merged with Wachovia Corporation.
A collector of American paintings of the mid-19th to the 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.
Having served on a number of philanthropic and non-profit boards, Osher is an active community leader in the San Francisco Bay Area, the recipient of several honorary degrees, a serious student of opera, and an ardent fly fisherman.
He and his wife Barbro Osher, Consul General for Sweden in San Francisco, conduct their philanthropy through the Bernard Osher Foundation, the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Fund, and the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, which supports Swedish cultural and educational projects in North America and Sweden.