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USM Receives Historic $10 Million Gift to Name its School of Music: The Dr. Alfred and D. Suzi Osher School of Music at the University of Southern Maine

Philanthropist and longtime friend of the University of Southern Maine, D. Suzi Osher, has committed $10 million to USM’s School of Music. It is the largest monetary gift in USM Foundation history.

In recognition of the gift, the School of Music will be named in honor of Suzi Osher and her late husband, Dr. Alfred Osher and be known as: The Dr. Alfred and D. Suzi Osher School of Music at the University of Southern Maine. 

Suzi Osher’s gift will help realize the long-held dream of a new home for USM’s highly acclaimed music programs, a vision Mrs. Osher herself has championed for decades. The gift will help pave the way for construction of a new Center for the Arts, moving the School of Music’s academic and performance programs from the Gorham campus to a prominent location at the heart of USM’s Portland campus. In the image are Dorothy Suzi Osher (left); USM President Glenn Cummings, Ed.D. (center); and USM Foundation Director of Major & Planned Gifts, Sue Palmer (right).

“The School of Music is one of USM’s signature programs of excellence and it’s also one of our best-kept secrets,” said USM President Glenn Cummings. “Suzi Osher’s gift, in combination with a $5 million gift from the Crewe Foundation earlier this summer, will help ensure that the long-held dream of a new Center for the Arts becomes a reality – and the outstanding School of Music is a secret no more.”

“Music has always been my passion,” said Suzi Osher. “I am honored to support USM’s School of Music in enriching the education and lives of students and the community. I know my late husband Alfred would be proud to have his name attached to such an outstanding program at the University.” 

 “Over the past 60 years, USM’s School of Music has established itself as a premiere program and training ground for musicians and teachers whose influence can be heard all over the world," said the School’s director, Alan Kaschub. “Suzi Osher’s gift is a game changer for USM, enabling us to create a beautiful, purpose-built facility worthy of the excellence of our faculty and talented students. Her gift will have an enduring impact on the arts not just at USM but throughout the state of Maine and far beyond.”

The impact of USM’s School of Music runs deep in Maine. Graduates help form the backbone of K-12 music education with choral and band professionals leading programs in schools across the state. USM alumni have won the Maine Outstanding New Music Educator of the Year Award from the Maine Music Educators Association every year for the past five straight years.  

The USM School of Music also boasts many distinguished and award-winning alumni. Graduates have gone on to win Grammy Awards, perform at the Metropolitan Opera, attract hundreds of thousands of YouTube followers as music educators and influencers, teach at top universities, and serve in elite national music ensembles. 

“Suzi Osher has been a catalyst for this project from the beginning,” said USM Foundation President Ainsley Wallace. “She’s been there at pivotal moments throughout the years, supporting USM as we moved through various iterations of this project to arrive where we are today. Her generosity is helping to bring a world-class center for learning and performing to our Portland campus, one that will invite collaboration and connections with the arts community in Greater Portland and beyond.” 

USM’s Center for the Arts project could break ground as soon as the spring of 2023 as fundraising momentum continues, and the necessary approval processes are finalized by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees and the City of Portland.

Suzi Osher is a lifelong philanthropist, patron of the arts, and friend to USM. She grew up in Biddeford, ME, the daughter of Joseph A. and Anna Marie Petrin, who taught her to value education and hard work. She developed an early love for music and the piano, thanks to childhood piano lessons, and remembers playing the piano at a local music store when she was just 10.  

After high school, she worked in the office of Dr. Alfred Osher, an oral surgeon in Biddeford and Maine’s first board-certified orthodontist. Suzi managed the office and later studied to be an orthodontist assistant. The couple married and enjoyed extensive travel during their lives together.  

Suzi Osher’s long legacy of support for music, scholarships, and other educational priorities at USM includes establishing the Dr. Alfred Osher & D. Suzi Osher Scholarship and launching the Gorham-based arts planning project, which evolved a decade later into the current plan for the Portland campus. Her generosity has benefited the University Libraries and various USM capital campaigns, as well as School of Music scholarships and annual fund, among others.

The couple’s philanthropic foundation has benefited numerous other educational and healthcare institutions in Maine and elsewhere in New England, including Maine Medical Center, the Children’s Museum of Maine, the YMCA, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, and Tufts Dental School.

To learn more about the School of Music and a future USM Center for the Arts, visit: http://foundation.usm.maine.edu/presskit

To learn more about USM’s Portland Campus projects visit: usm.maine.edu/portland-campus-development-project