Our Alumni Do Great Work
Fathering Hope in Ghana
Antonio D'Auria '02
On a layover in Accra, Ghana, Delta flight attendant Antonio D'Auria '02 visited an orphanage and found a new family.
Antonio, who grew up in a loving family of little means, felt compelled to check out an Accra orphanage that he had heard was the largest in Ghana. Antonio's experiences as a political science major at PSU, gave him the confidence that one person could make a difference. Upon visiting the orphanage, he was so taken with the children and their obvious needs that on his next trip he brought them a few gifts and supplies. That gesture started a movement.
Taking advantage of a job that allows him to travel inexpensively on his own time, Antonio regularly delivers supplies and support to 200 children who love him like a father. Wanting to do more than he could alone, Antonio formed Sky of Love, a nonprofit that shelters and educates orphaned, abused, and neglected children. Fellow Delta employees, his Brooklyn (N.Y.) neighbors, schoolchildren, and friends of friends support the organization.
What started as a curiosity has become a passion. â€œThis is not an obligation,â€ Antonio says. â€œIt's a natural thing to share my blessings to help others improve their lives. And when I show up to the orphanage and the kids come runningâ€”there's no price for that.â€
Center of Hope for Oregonians
Dennis Keenan MSW '72
Meeting the unmet needs of Oregon's disadvantaged is the life work of Dennis Keenan MSW '72.
Dennis started at PSU as a philosophy major, doing â€œsome social activism on the side.â€ But helping people was clearly his passion, so he switched to social work. Through the degree program, Dennis learned how to work within institutions, not outside them, to effect positive social change. Coalition building is â€œthe modus operandi of social work today,â€ says Dennis.
Following graduation, he went to work for Cascade Health Care, providing care for the medically indigent, and with the Archdiocese of Portland. For the past 21 years he's been executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon.
One of Catholic Charities' nationally recognized programs, El Program Hispano, helps low-income, Latino immigrant families achieve self-sufficiency. Catholic Charities recently added a program to provide resources to victims of human trafficking, and is currently raising $12 million for a Center of Hope that will bring a Loaves and Fishes Center, a child care facility, and administration and other programs under one roof.
The foundation of his education is never far from Dennis' work. Catholic Charities arranges field placements for Portland State students, and two of his employees are applying to attend PSU.
Marisa Lino '71
Growing up, international ambassador Marisa Lino '71 never considered diplomacy as a career option until a PSU professor encouraged it.
Professor Frank Munk, a former employee of Czechoslovakia's last non-Communist government, saw global potential in Marisa and encouraged her to think about the Foreign Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of State. A project interviewing people about current world issues for a student-run TV show piqued her interest, and the on-camera work gave her confidence to pursue the idea.
Marisa became one of the first women from Portland State to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps, and built a distinguished 30-year career with postings to Italy, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, and Peru. She was named U.S. Ambassador to Albania in 1996, facilitating U.S.-Albanian relations until 1999. After her Foreign Service career, she was assistant secretary of international affairs for the Department of Homeland Security.
Even in a peripatetic career, Marisa's PSU ties came back to her, sometimes in surprising ways. On assignment as a refugee coordinator in the Pakistan embassy, she discovered that two of her colleaguesâ€”an Afghan-American working for the UN and an American working for Save the Childrenâ€”had graduated from PSU in her class; they hadn't known each other in school, but they've been friends ever since.
Fariborz Maseeh '80, MS '84
Fariborz Maseeh '80, MS '84 explains his philanthropic philosophy this way: â€œInvest in good causes for public good just as you invest in any prudent venture.â€
Fariborz found success as a pioneer in the field of micro-electro-mechanical systems. Today he oversees the Massiah Foundation, which puts the concept of philanthropic investment into practice. Through the foundation, he has become the largest individual donor to Portland State.
In 2005, he gave $8 million to the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. Now he has invested $3.9 million in computational science, a discipline that allows researchers to model complex systems such as brain function, regional freeways, even climate change.
Fariborz's investment in computation science will create graduates who can contribute to the well-being of the region, and it allows for industry partnerships that will advance economic development for Portland as well as the rest of the state.
Fariborz describes his desire to give back to Portland State in simple terms. â€œMy choice is to help where I was helped,â€ he says. â€œYou look for good managers, good operations, and high future potential. PSU has all three.â€
Ventures in Technology
C. Norm Winningstad MBA '73
Technical knowledge and business skills are not always natural partners. C. Norm Winningstad MBA '73 successfully brought them together.
The technology side came naturally. As an undergrad at Cal-Berkeley, Norm became an expert in vacuum-tube technology, earning his degree in 1948â€”the year Bell Labs introduced the transistor. â€œI graduated obsolete,â€ he jokes, but he stayed with the curve of technology while working at Tektronix, taking a break to get his MBA at Portland State.
While at Tektronix he met a group of engineers with a good idea for a tech business but no business skills. Norm quickly learned the practical skills he needed to found Floating Point Systems, which produced mini-supercomputers. He experienced additional success with subsequent startups Lattice Semiconductor and Thrustmaster.
Now semi-retired but nonetheless working on a new technology venture, Norm has devoted much of his time and wealth to giving back to education, science, and the arts. He has served on the boards of the Boy Scouts of America, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, OMSI, and the St. Vincent Heart Foundation.
He also contributes time and money to PSU's School of Business Administration, because, says the self-effacing entrepreneur, â€œI'm just a tech weenie who got an MBA and became a business type.â€
Creating Age-Friendly Cities
Keren Brown Wilson PhD '83 and Michael DeShane MA '72, PhD '77
Keren Brown Wilson PhD '83 and her husband Michael DeShane MA '72, PhD '77 have devoted their lives to a fact of life that impacts us all: aging.
Their basic goal is to help people with limited means age with dignity, and they've built their careers around that concept. Keren founded the Jesse F. Richardson Foundation, which advocates for quality housing and long-term care in the United States and Central America. Michael leads Concepts in Community Living, a consulting and management firm focused on assisted living.
Together the couple donated $1 million to fund the Aging Matters initiative in PSU's Institute on Aging. The initiative will change the ways communities plan for and address quality-of-life issues for older adults. The U.S. component of the program emphasizes affordable housing and services while building supportive neighborhood environments. In other countries, such as Nicaragua, the initiative explores culturally relevant models of care for the elderly. Aging Matters is currently aligning with the World Health Organization's Age Friendly Cities program as it works globally to shape inclusive and accessible urban environments that promote active aging.
Keren and Michael's donation was spurred by seeing other efforts to help the elderly fail due to a lack of understanding of this population's needs. â€œWe hope Aging Matters can result in a better understanding of the issues and difficulties in providing effective services to low-income, urban elderly in the United States and developing countries,â€ Michael says.
Bringing Justice to the People
Chief Justice Paul De Muniz '72
Chief Justice Paul De Muniz '72 is the first Hispanic American on the Oregon Supreme Court. But he's more concerned with accountability than ethnicity.
As the first person to go to college in his family, Paul credits Portland State for giving him the chance to purse a career in law. And, while Oregon's top judicial official is honored to be a forerunner, what Paul desires is to see the state judicial system more accessible, transparent, accountable, and engaged with the public.
One of the ways Paul fosters an interest in the justice system among all demographic groups is by encouraging people to be more connected to their state courts. To that end, Paul has worked to bring the courts to the peopleâ€”literally. In 2008, the Oregon Supreme Court convened in a Klamath Falls High School gym and engaged the spectators in a Q-and-A discussion. The case involved a thousand farm families and 13 water districts battling with a federal agency over water rights in the Klamath Basin.
â€œCourts should be engaged with the communities they serve,â€ he says. â€œNinety-five percent of all litigation takes place in state courts. The public should understand how the courts arrive at their decisions, how they operate, and how they spend their money. Because as justice goes in state courts, that's how America goes.â€
Inspiring Future CEOs
Greg Ness MBA '87
In a career that has taken him to the upper reaches of corporate management, Greg Ness MBA '87 says his most valuable professional move was returning to school.
Greg joined The Standard Insurance Company in 1979 but took a break a few years later to earn an MBA at Portland State. He's glad he did things in that order. â€œThe best thing I ever did was work for a few years and then go back to school,â€ says Greg. â€œThe perspective is entirely different; it helped me see the bigger picture as opposed to just the portion of the business in which I was then involved.â€
Back at The Standard, his career took off as he purposely sampled different parts of the company in order to learn more about it. He eventually served as vice president of no fewer than five different areas of the company before being named president and COO in 2008. Today he's president and CEO.
As top management, Greg contributes to the community in many ways, including board membership on the Oregon Business Council, Portland Center Stage, and the Armory Theater Fund. But he also steadfastly maintains his ties with business education at PSU as an advisory board member, classroom speaker, and generous donor through The Standard.
â€œMy involvement sort of completes the circle of sharing knowledge and what I've learned,â€ he explains. â€œAnd I always learn something new from discussions with students or faculty. Plus we're always looking for good talent to join our organization!â€