Bernard Osher

Honorary Degree Citation


Bernard Osher. Business leader. Patron of higher education, the arts, and alternative medicine. Philanthropic visionary. A native of Maine and graduate of Bowdoin College, you forged a distinguished career in business that took you from managing your family’s hardware store in Biddeford to working at Oppenheimer & Company in New York and then to California, where you were founding director of World Savings and owner of Butterfield and Butterfield Auctioneers. In 1977 you founded the Bernard Osher Foundation, which has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that promote the arts, education, and integrative medicine in America and beyond. You understand the power of higher education, and the foundation’s scholarship programs have made it possible for innumerable students to attend colleges, including Colby. You have never stopped learning, and, because you created the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program and Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, others, too, can continue to pursue their intellectual passions outside traditional college settings. As a patron of the arts, you have significantly augmented museums and their collections. The Osher Gallery at the Colby Museum of Art is one of many facilities that bear your name, and we are immensely proud of our association with a favorite son of Maine. Through your sustained and visionary commitment to arts organizations and educational programs, you have enriched the lives of countless students and made art and learning a central part of our lives. In championing and funding integrative medicine at the University of California, at Harvard, and at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, you have taught us to look at human health and healthcare in a more holistic fashion.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Bernard Osher, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

Conferred May 22, 2011

Bernard Osher is founder and treasurer of the Bernard Osher Foundation, which is located in San Francisco and supports higher education and the arts. A native of Biddeford, Maine, and a graduate of Bowdoin College, Osher began his business career at the family hardware store in Maine and worked at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York before moving to California to become a founding director of World Savings. He was owner of the fine art auction house Butterfield & Butterfield from 1970 to 1999 and oversaw its growth to become fourth-largest auction house in the world. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he currently serves as president of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Foundation and vice chair of the American Himalayan Foundation. He also is a serious student of opera and an ardent fly-fisherman.


Commencement Contact

Colby College Logo