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$1 million gift will expand and enhance Osher Institute programming

Osher Institute participants tour the Flying W Ranch in the Flint Hills.
Osher Institute participants tour the Flying W Ranch in the Flint Hills.

A $1 million gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation will strengthen an endowed fund that benefits the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a unit of Continuing Education at the University of Kansas. Founded in 2004, the Institute at KU offers a wide array of educational courses and activities designed for individuals age 50 and over.

Foundation president Mary Bitterman praised the KU Osher Institute staff and members who share their time, talent and financial resources. “We applaud, too, the University’s leadership for its support of the program and for embracing the notion that — at its best — education is a lifelong pursuit that has the power to elevate, delight and forge our connection to one another and to a larger world,” she said.

Every semester, the Osher Institute enriches the lives of thousands of citizens across Kansas and beyond.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little made a surprise appearance at a KU Continuing Education luncheon to read a letter from Mary Bitterman announcing the gift.

“The Osher Foundation’s generosity will help our Institute in so many ways,” said Jim Peters, director of the Osher Institute. “This gift and others will help us keep our fees low, attract additional highly qualified instructors, expand programming into communities that may not have resources for lifelong learning, and maintain the technology we need to sustain our program.”

Sharon Graham, executive director of KU Continuing Education, cited the importance of the Institute’s outreach mission, “Every semester, the Osher Institute enriches the lives of thousands of citizens across Kansas and beyond.”

When reviewing criteria for the award, the Foundation considered excellence in curriculum and programming, strong organizational structure and financial stability, support from KU, a robust annual fundraising program, and a membership level exceeding 1,000 dues-paying members annually. Also important to this designation were generous contributions from KU Osher Institute participants.

Previously, the Osher Foundation had given more than $1.5 million in support of KU’s Osher Institute, including $1 million to establish the endowed fund in 2008. When funds are endowed, the principal of the gift remains intact, with a portion of the annual earnings providing a perpetual source of operating funds.

Headquartered in San Francisco, The Bernard Osher Foundation was established in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected businessman and community leader. The Foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. It provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation. It also supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes operate on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska. 

The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The fund will be managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Michelle Keller

Assistant Vice President, Communications and Donor Relations 785-832-7336

Michelle Strickland

Media Relations 785-832-7363