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Bernard Osher Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-06-06

At A Glance

Bernard Osher Foundation

1 Ferry Bldg., Ste. 255

San Francisco, CA United States 94111-4243

Telephone: (415) 861-5587


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

  • Celebrity: Business; Politics; Other

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $68,657,149

Total giving: $24,621,903





Additional Contact Information

E-mail for Jeanie Hirokane:


Established in 1977 in CA - Founded by Bernard Osher, a founding director of World Savings, the second largest savings institution in the United States that merged with Wachovia Corporation. Mr. Osher, a patron of education and the arts, as well as a collector of American paintings of the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, purchased the fine art auction house of Butterfield & Butterfield in 1970. He oversaw its growth to become the fourth largest auction house in the world and in 1999 he sold the company to eBay. His wife, Barbro Osher, is Consul General for Sweden in San Francisco, CA. She is the former owner and publisher of Vestkusten, one of the few Swedish-American newspapers in the United States. She is also the founder of the Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) chapter in San Francisco, CA. Bernard and Barbro Osher have committed to The Giving Pledge, and have pledged to give away at least half their wealth to philanthropy

Purpose and Activities

The foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and the state of Maine through post-secondary student scholarships and arts and humanities grants. It also supports selected programs in integrative medicine, as well as a national network of lifelong learning institutes for older adults.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Local Arts, Cultural, and Educational Programs

The foundation provides grants to performing arts groups, literary programs, educational and environmental groups, and social service organizations. Growing emphasis now is on assisting arts and educational organizations. This program area – among the foundation’s five program areas – is distinct inasmuch as it is the only one that receives unsolicited proposals. .

Osher Integrative Medicine Program

In 1998 and 2001, the Foundation established two innovative centers for integrative medicine - the first at the University of California, San Francisco and the second at the Harvard Medical School in Boston. These two programs have within a few years of their founding become leaders in the field. In the summer of 2005, the foundation, in partnership with the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, provided support for the founding of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the Karolinska Institute (KI) in Sweden. All three institutions are committed to developing programs that feature research, education, and clinical care in integrative medicine, also known as complementary or alternative medicine. These programs explore approaches which generally lay outside the mainstream of Western medicine, including chiropractic care, herbal remedies, acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathy, macrobiotics, yoga, massage, guided imagery awareness, and other treatment and remedies. One of the primary goals of these centers is to conduct basic laboratory research on integrative medicine remedies, to examine their consequences, and to build an empirical case for their application. In the case of the American institutions, third-party reimbursement will likely depend upon persuasive cases being made to insurers that integrative medicine offers effective remedies. A second goal is to reach out to the larger community with an emphasis on preventive care. The centers seek to educate both medical practitioners as well as the general public. Seminars and conferences help educate people about the benefits of such "non-traditional" approaches to good health and medical care. A third goal is to establish clinical treatment programs in which the knowledge and resources of integrative medicine can be used directly to help people as well as furnish training opportunities for medical students.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes

In the fall of 2000, the foundation began to consider programs targeted toward more mature students, not necessarily well served by the standard continuing education curriculum. Courses in such programs attract students of all ages eager to accumulate units to complete degrees or to acquire career upgrade skills. By contrast, the interest of more senior students, many of whom are at retirement age, is in learning for the joy of learning - without homework or examinations. At present, the foundation supports 117 lifelong learning programs on university and college campuses across the country, with at least one grantee in each of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia). The foundation also supports a National Resource Center for the Institutes, which is located at the University of Southern Maine.

Osher Reentry Scholarship Program

The program's purpose is intended to benefit students who have considerable years of employability ahead of them—ideally aged 25 to 50. The Foundation defines reentry students as individuals who have experienced an interruption in their education of five or more years and who want to resume their education at the undergraduate level.Qualified students may include part- and full-time students, with a preference given to newly matriculating students. Applicants should have financial need, academic promise and a commitment to completing their degree. The foundation requires that scholarship awards be applied to student tuition fees exclusively. The foundation does not make grants to students directly. Colleges and universities administer the scholarship program after receiving support from the foundation. A list of 90 institutions offering Reentry Scholarships can be found on the foundation web site. In all cases, students apply for the scholarship through the college or university, not the Osher Foundation. .

Osher Scholars and Fellows Program

In 1998 the foundation established the Osher Scholars Program, providing scholarship assistance to college and university students who demonstrate academic achievement and promise as well as ongoing financial need. The program operates at every level of higher education: two-year community colleges, four-year undergraduate institutions, and conservatory and graduate schools. Nearly all of the Osher sites have been awarded permanent endowments in support of the program. In addition to financial support, Osher Scholars on many campuses receive special counseling and programming. A distinctive characteristic of the Osher Scholar programs is the expectation that students will give something back to their respective communities in terms of career choices (e.g., choosing to teach in an inner-city school) or through volunteerism and community service. A variation of the Osher Scholars program is a small Osher Fellows program. These fellowships support outstanding individuals who are working on projects in specialized educational settings. Osher awards are typically for up to four-years of undergraduate and graduate study. Students are selected to be Osher Scholars or Fellows by the host institutions. The Foundation plays no role in the process of awarding individual scholarships. There are a total of 35 Osher Scholar and Fellow venues: 16 in Northern California (the Greater San Francisco Bay Area), and 17 in Maine. There are also venues in two other states.

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Dance
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Higher education
  • Humanities
  • Museums
  • Music
  • Performing arts
  • Theater
  • University education
  • Visual arts
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Children and youth
  • Students

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $68,657,149 (market value)

Gifts received: $61,657,149

Expenditures: $26,022,641

Total giving: $24,621,903

Qualifying distributions: $14,005,907

Giving activities include:

$24,621,903 for grants