Portland State University has named Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer and Irving Levin and Stephanie Fowler as the honorees for the 13th annual Simon Benson Awards, which will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at the Oregon Convention Center. Together, the two families have given millions of dollars to a wide array of causes in the Portland area and beyond.
In addition to the two Simon Benson Awards, PSU will bestow its first ever Alumni Achievement Award to Travis Knight, president and CEO of LAIKA, the Hillsboro, Ore., animation studio that produced the Academy Award-nominated film “Coraline.” Knight earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from PSU in 1998.
Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton, famous for her roles in movies such as “The Godfather,” “Annie Hall” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” will be the headline speaker at this year’s event. Keaton has played a range of dramatic and comedic roles over her more than 40 years in Hollywood. She is also a photographer, real estate developer, author and occasional singer.
Arlene, Jordan and the late Harold Schnitzer have been major philanthropic forces in Oregon for decades.
The Harold Schnitzer Family has supported virtually every cultural, educational and social service agency in our region, including the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, which renamed their theater “The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.” Other organizations supported by the Schnitzer Family include The Portland Art Museum, Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Lewis & Clark College Northwestern School of Law, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Symphony, as well as providing contributions of more than $1.6 million to PSU since 1998.
In addition to receiving the Portland First Citizen Award in 1995, Arlene and her late husband Harold were also given honorary doctorates from PSU in 2004 and honorary doctorates from PNCA in 2011.
Jordan Schnitzer has received numerous honors and awards, including the PSU President’s Award for Outstanding Philanthropy in 2002, the State of Oregon’s Governor Arts Award in 2003, the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award in 2009 and the Lewis & Clark College Northwestern School of Law’s Distinguished Business Law Graduate Award in 2011, among others. He has served on more than 30 nonprofit boards and organizations, strengthening their presence in the community.
Irving Levin is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and mentor. He and his wife Stephanie Fowler co-founded The Renaissance Foundation in 2000 to benefit a wide range of philanthropic interests, especially education. Levin is currently Executive Chairman of Genesis Financial Solutions and Chairman of Digital Divide Data, an international social enterprise operating in several developing countries. He serves on the boards of several private companies and non-profits, and previously was on the boards of the PSU Foundation, Providence St. Vincent Medical Foundation, SMART and the Children's Institute, among others.
Fowler is an award-winning journalist and a psychotherapist. She was an associate editor and member of the editorial board of The Oregonian, and for nine years hosted Oregon Public Broadcasting's news and public affairs program "Seven Days." For many years prior, she was the political reporter/analyst at KGW-TV, then KOIN-TV. She serves on the Oregon Board of the Nature Conservancy, the World Affairs Council advisory board and as a Trustee of Lewis and Clark College.
"We have learned you can't fix the whole world, so you have to focus, and it's best to focus on things you care about. Education is one of our shared passions,” Levin said. Levin and Fowler created a scholarship at PSU for students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college in the United States. Over 50 students have benefited from the scholarship. They are co-sponsors of an I Have A Dream class in the Portland area. The Renaissance Foundation also supports youth and human services, the environment and educational outreach programs.
Named after one of Oregon’s first philanthropists, the Simon Benson Award was created by PSU in 1999 to honor the region’s contemporary pioneers in philanthropy. Recipients are community leaders who have generously given time and resources to improve the lives of generations of Oregonians. A key objective of the event is to highlight the impact and raise the profile of philanthropy throughout Oregon. In 2011, the Simon Benson Awards Dinner raised an unprecedented $840,000, supporting students, faculty, and campus programs at PSU.
This year’s event has been already received the gracious support from the following lead sponsors:
Principal Level Sponsors: Howard S. Wright, The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, Peter and Julie Stott
Leadership Level Sponsors: KeyBank, Portland Monthly Magazine, Umpqua Bank