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About Osher Lifelong Learning

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 122 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 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.  (September 2007)


In March 2004, Cal State San Marcos Extended Learning was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation to establish the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The Osher Foundation supports the creation of new programs in lifelong learning at institutions of higher education across the country. Today, there are over 115 Osher programs throughout the United States.  In 2008 we received a $1,000,000 endowment which will ensure our continued success.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute provides mature learners (50 years and older) with an intellectually challenging program of non-credit courses taught by Cal State San Marcos professors and other experts in their respective fields. The program recognizes that an active mind fosters a general sense of well-being and challenges learners to stay intellectually alive and socially aware. We have three terms; Fall, Spring, and Summer. We average 30 classes per term. Most of the classes are offered in  5 or 10 week sessions, (2 hours each week). 

In Spring 2007 we decided to "take it on the road".  We recognize the value of bringing the courses closer to our students especially with North County being so spread out. We are offering courses on the San Marcos Campus  and have made it "user friendly" with parking passes and detailed maps to guide you along the way. 

Instructors include professors from Cal State San Marcos and local universities and experts in specific fields. If you are interested in connecting with a group of your peers who share common goals—to learn new things, travel and build upon personal experiences—OLLI is for you! The Osher Institute offers a “requirement free” environment that does not involve examinations or grades, and is open to all interested older adults regardless of previous educational achievements.  Come for the pure joy of learning!