Provided below are the biographies of the Foundation's Chairman, Founder and Treasurer, and President.
Barbro Osher, Chairman of the BoardBarbro Osher is Honorary Consul General of Sweden in California. For many years, she was owner and publisher of Vestkusten, one of the few Swedish-American newspapers in the United States, established in 1886 as a source of news from Sweden on politics, business, and sports as well as information on the active Swedish-American community in the West.
A native of Stockholm and a graduate of Stockholm University with a degree in languages and political science, Osher pursued a career in publishing and advertising in Sweden before moving to the United States in the early 1980s. Her first visit to America in 1962 was to Maine where she participated as a student in the Experiment in International Living program. Over the years, she has represented both the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the Swedish Tourist Board.
Barbro Osher is the founder of the Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) chapter in San Francisco and was president of Positive Sweden/North America, an organization furthering the image of Sweden through educational activities in the United States. She serves on the boards of the University of California (Berkeley) Foundation, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the Nobel Museum in Stockholm.
Among numerous recognitions, including several American honorary degrees, Osher received the Eliason Award from the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Los Angeles in 1999. She was a recipient of His Majesty the King’s Medal in 2002. In 2004 Barbro Osher was named SWEA International’s Woman of the Year. In 2006, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Göteborg University, Sweden and in 2010 from the Karolinska Institute. Also in 2010, she was recognized by the American-Scandinavian Foundation with its Award for Distinguished Public Service. In 2014, the Swedish Minister of Culture awarded her the honorary title of Professor in view of her significant contributions to Swedish and American cultural life.
Barbro Osher chairs The Bernard Osher Foundation and is president of The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation. The Pro Suecia Foundation supports Swedish-related cultural and educational projects in North America and Sweden. Among the Foundation’s grantees are several American universities, including the University of California (Berkeley), Gustavus Adolphus University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington, whose programs advance understanding of Swedish culture and tradition both in Sweden and in America. She also is an active member of the Consular Corps of San Francisco, an avid reader in six languages, and an enthusiastic skier.
Bernard Osher, Founder and Treasurer
Bernard Osher, a patron of education and the arts, started The Bernard Osher Foundation in 1977 which seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts.
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 when it was purchased by the Wachovia Corporation in 2006.
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.
Bernard Osher has been affiliated with a number of philanthropic and non-profit boards and currently serves as president of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Foundation and vice-chair of the American Himalayan Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Class of 2009). He also is a serious student of opera and an ardent fly fisherman.
He and his wife Barbro Osher, Honorary Consul General of Sweden in California, conduct their philanthropy through The Bernard Osher Foundation, The Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Fund, and The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation.
Mary G.F. Bitterman, President
Mary G. F. Bitterman is President of The Bernard Osher Foundation, a 37-year-old philanthropic organization headquartered in San Francisco that supports higher education and the arts. The Foundation provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation, with special attention to reentry students. It also benefits programs in integrative medicine in the United States and Sweden, including centers at the University of California, San Francisco; Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston; the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden; Northwestern University; and Vanderbilt University. In addition, the Foundation supports a national network of lifelong learning programs for seasoned adults, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, which currently operate on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education from Maine to Alaska and Hawaii. Grants to select cultural and arts organizations are made in the San Francisco Bay Area and the State of Maine.
Previously, Bitterman served as President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation and before that as President and CEO of KQED, a major American public broadcasting center. She has served as Director of the Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority, the Voice of America, the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and the East-West Center's Institute of Culture and Communication. Bitterman currently is a director of Bank of Hawaii, Bay Area Council Economic Institute, The Bernard Osher Foundation, Commonwealth Club of California, and the Hawaii Community Foundation, and she chairs the PBS Foundation Board. She also is an Advisory Council member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the Public Policy Institute of California, and Pacific Forum/CSIS. She is an Honorary Member of the National Presswomen's Federation and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Bitterman received her B.A. from Santa Clara University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College.