Bernard Osher Foundation Awards $1 Million for UH Hilo Reentry Scholarships

article top

BY MARGOT SCHRIRE– Returning adult students at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo now have a permanent source of scholarship support thanks to a $1 million award from The Bernard Osher Foundation.  Beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year the Osher Reentry Scholarship Endowment will provide a minimum of 25 scholarships per year, to older students whose education has been interrupted for five or more years.

The Osher Foundation has annually supported scholarships for reentry students at UH Hilo since 2007.  “The Osher Reentry Scholarship Program is one of the most important initiatives of the Foundation,” noted Mary Bitterman, Osher Foundation president. “We are delighted to award an endowment grant to UH Hilo to assist nontraditional students in completing their degrees and realizing their dreams.”


To date The Bernard Osher Foundation has given $3,550,000 to support reentry students at UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West Oahu

“We are so very grateful to The Osher Foundation for its long and dedicated support of the University of Hawai‘i in its mission of providing a quality, affordable education to the broadest population possible,” said President M.R.C. Greenwood, University of Hawai‘i System. “In this economy in particular, when non-traditional students are re-tooling themselves for a changed work environment, the Osher gift makes it possible for us to play an active role in restoring our economy to health by providing this educational resource to people of all ages and walks of life.”

Students resuming their academic careers after a long absence face a number of challenges that most traditional students do not, such as managing simultaneously the responsibilities of being a student, parent, spouse, and employee.

“Access to higher education, outreach and support for non-traditional and underserved populations are part of UH Hilo’s mission,” commented Donald Straney, chancellor, UH Hilo.  “This major award from the Osher Foundation means we can better support older, returning students who might otherwise not be able to pursue a college degree.”

Having been out of school and in the workforce or at home raising children for many years, reentry students must reacquaint themselves with efficient and effective ways of learning and studying.

“It is absolutely critical that we find ways to remove the barriers to higher education many of our students face. The Osher Reentry Scholarships provide the means for aspiring students to access higher education and pursue careers that lead to an improved quality of life,” says Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Luoluo Hong.

These scholarships are already transforming lives — like that of Shirley Dellinger.

“After graduating from high school, I decided to seek employment. College was not an option at that time due to financial hardships,” said Shirley Dellinger. “It wasn’t until later, after marrying and having children that I was advised by a guidance counselor to enroll in college.” After attending Leeward Community College, Shirley transferred to UH Hilo to pursue her dream of obtaining a BBA. Here she made good progress, but was forced to stop her studies when her marriage of 17 years ended in divorce.

In 2000 Shirley joined Hospice of Hilo as its bookkeeper. The local nonprofit saw her potential and encouraged her to return to school. “With a strong faith in God, my new husband’s support, six children in tow, and rekindled determination, I returned to UH Hilo in 2007 on a part-time basis, later increasing my schedule to full time, while also working 40 hrs a week to support my family.”  She continued, “When I was notified that I had been awarded an Osher Reentry Scholarship, tears of joy filled my eyes. Knowing that there was someone who believed in me enough to support my education was a very humbling experience. I was determined to cross the finish line.”

In May 2011 Shirley graduated with honors and a BBA, the first in her family to attain a college education. Since then, she has been promoted to controller and now manages the accounting and HR departments at Hospice of Hilo.

“Education has opened doors for me and provided the skills and knowledge needed in today’s economy.” Shirley’s journey is by no means over. “I plan to enroll in the HR Master’s program at UH Mānoa through the Shidler College of Business neighbor island program in the fall of 2012.”

Quick facts about UH Hilo:

  • Half of the university’s 4,000 students come from the Big Island. Many are from rural communities in which exposure to and experience with higher education is limited.  About 23% are Native Hawaiian.


  • UH Hilo has the highest percentage of students receiving financial aid of any of the ten campuses in the UH system. 65% of UH Hilo students depend upon some form of financial aid to fund the cost of attending university.


To learn more about how you can support the students and programs at UH Hilo, please contact Margaret Shiba at (808) 933-0829 or



The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded 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. 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; and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. In addition, the Foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, operating on the campuses of 117 institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawai‘i, have a National Resource Center at the University of Southern Maine. Finally, an array of performing arts organizations, museums, and selected educational programs in Northern California and in Mr. Osher’s native state of Maine receive Foundation grants.


The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. Our mission is to unite our donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations to benefit the people of Hawai‘i and beyond. We do this by raising private philanthropic support, managing private investments and nurturing donor and alumni relationships.


The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is a comprehensive university with five degree-granting colleges, six master’s programs and four doctoral programs. UH Hilo strives to integrate culture and science, offer hands-on learning opportunities to its students and use the Island of Hawai‘i as a natural learning laboratory. Enrollment has doubled since 1980 to over 4,000 students coming from all fifty states and more than 40 countries.  Please visit