Many people with money like to let everyone know that they have money. They often like to be flashy, brazen, and sometimes obnoxious. The majority of these people have never read the Millionare Next Door book.
Now, compare those traits to a quiet philanthropist who stood recently beside the movie-star governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to celebrate the Bernard Osher Foundation’s unprecedented $70 million donation to California community college students.
Have you ever heard of Mr. Osher? Probably not. But, he's worth getting to know.
Bernard Osher, 80, was too modest to address the crowd gathered in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Capitol office for a donation ceremony. He remained calm and respectful, always standing to the side of the podium. But as students snapped pictures of Schwarzenegger afterward, Osher beamed about how his latest education gift could help generations of students.
The San Francisco-based Osher Foundation has committed $50 million toward an endowment to pay for scholarships for the state’s poorest community college students starting in 2009. That money will pay for $1,000 awards to defray the costs of textbooks, lab fees, and other items beyond registration fees. An additional $20 million gift is dedicated toward scholarships for students who transfer to four-year California schools.
Osher grew up in Biddeford, Maine, as the son of working-class immigrants from Russia and Lithuania. His parents owned a hardware and plumbing store, where he worked with his siblings before attending Maine’s prestigious Bowdoin College.
He then co-founded Golden West Financial Corp., parent company of World Savings Bank, which was sold to Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $24 billion. An avid collector of American art whose collection includes works by Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, Osher bought the San Francisco-based auction house Butterfield & Butterfield in 1970. He sold it to eBay in 1999 for $260 million.
Business Week last year named Osher the 11th most generous philanthropist in the world. The magazine estimated his lifetime giving at $805 million.
Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman said that Osher “does not like to speak or to be recognized,” but that he tells her every day that the foundation needs to “focus, focus, focus.”
What a great story! What a positive witness! Our world definitely needs more men (and women) like Mr. Osher. Way to go!