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Osher Foundation’s scholarship program for WSU adult learners receives $1 million gift

The endowment will help returning students earn their degrees for years to come

Osher Scholars Charlie Dresie, left, Dotti Santiago and Brandon Casey listen to a lecture in their business management class last spring. All three graduated this year with bachelor’s degrees in business administration.
Osher Scholars Charlie Dresie, left, Dotti Santiago and Brandon Casey listen to a lecture in their business management class last spring. All three graduated this year with bachelor’s degrees in business administration.

The Osher Reentry Scholarship Program at Wichita State, supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation, has received a gift of $1 million to help adult learners return to school and earn their degrees.

The endowment means the two-year-old scholarship program at WSU will become a permanent one, offering an estimated total of $50,000 each year to 20 to 25 students. The Osher Foundation selected Wichita State in 2012 to launch a scholarship program and renewed a $50,000 grant for it the following year. It recently approved the WSU Foundation’s request for endowment, also providing a $50,000 transitional grant to support the program for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“The university was an attractive candidate for endowment support thanks to its substantial number of nontraditional students, ample support services for that population and fine administration of two earlier Osher Reentry grants,” said Mary Bitterman, president of The Bernard Osher Foundation.

Susan Norton
This endowment will make a difference for so many adults now and in the years to come."

- Susan Norton

Susan Norton, the WSU official who oversees the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program, called the endowment “hugely significant.”

“This is a renewable scholarship, so it can be utilized by the student every semester until they graduate as long as they remain in good standing,” said Norton, director of WSU satellite campuses, workforce development and adult learning.

She noted that Wichita State has the only Osher Reentry Scholarship Program in Kansas.

“I think it speaks highly of WSU that the Osher Foundation chose to fund our program and felt that we were worthy of the endowment,” Norton said.

Currently, 21 WSU students ranging in age from 26 to 57 receive Osher scholarships of up to $2,500 each per year, depending on their course load. One of the scholars, Brandon Casey, said financial assistance was crucial to his ability to return to school.

“Receiving the Osher scholarship was a huge motivational tool, knowing that someone I didn't even know was willing to help me succeed,” said Casey, who graduated this past May with a bachelor’s degree in business management. “I felt that I had to make the most of that opportunity.”

The Bernard Osher Foundation was founded in 1977 in San Francisco by Bernard Osher, a businessman and community leader. One of its chief goals is to provide scholarship support to colleges and universities across the country, with special attention to reentry students.

“The Foundation’s intent is to lighten the financial burden of students pursuing a degree while managing other obligations such as work and family concerns,” Bitterman said.

Most of the current Osher scholars at Wichita State have families and all but a couple of them hold down jobs, Norton said.

“With the help of the Osher Foundation, Wichita State is in a great position to serve the large population of nontraditional students who want to return to school and build better lives for themselves and their families,” she said.