Story posted August 10, 2010
Bernard Osher '48 and his wife, Barbro, have joined 40 of the country's wealthiest families in a commitment to give most of their money to charity.
The Oshers signed on to the Giving Pledge, an initiative founded by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that embodies a commitment to give most of one's wealth to philanthropic causes and charitable organizations during their lifetime or after their death.
Bernard Osher's sister, Marion Sandler, also made the pledge. Read the Portland Press Herald article, "Mainers Among Wealthy Making A Charity Pledge."
The list of people who've pledged includes Michael Bloomberg, Diane Von Furstenberg, George Lucas and Ted Turner, and is available on the Giving Pledge Web site.
A native of Biddeford, Maine, Osher is an extraordinarily capable businessman whose quiet but steady philanthropy has enriched countless lives while strengthening important institutions in Maine and across the country. Osher Hall, dedicated May 11, 2007, and the Bernard and Barbro Osher Gallery in the newly renovated Museum of Art were both made possible by Osher's generosity.
In 1963 Osher and members of his family purchased Golden West, a small savings and loan institution in California. Under his direction as senior vice president (1963-70) and chairman (1968-70), Golden West grew to be the nation's third-largest savings and loan institution.
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. He sold the company to eBay in 1999.
Osher has served as treasurer of the San Francisco Opera, honorary trustee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and vice chairman of the Jewish Museum. The Swedish government honored him with the Knight of the Polar Star and the Italian government conferred on him the title Commendatore.
The Bernard Osher Foundation, founded in 1977, seeks to improve quality of life for residents of California, Maine and elsewhere through post-secondary student scholarships and arts, cultural and educational grants. The Foundation also supports selected programs in integrative medicine as well as a national network of lifelong learning institutes. In recent years the Foundation has expanded scholarship funding to almost every state, targeting students ages 25 to 50 who have dropped out of college.
In recognition of his singular contributions, and with respect for his leadership and generosity, the College awarded Osher the honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2000.