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Simon Benson Awards Dinner raises over $1 million for Portland State University
Author: by John Kirkland
Posted: October 10, 2012

(Portland, Ore.) – Portland State University (PSU) raised more than $1 million – a new record – at its 13th annual Simon Benson Awards Dinner Tuesday at the Oregon Convention Center. The event is held every fall to honor local philanthropists. More than 1,700 people attended—another record for the event.

Tuesday’s event raised 20 percent more than last year, and nearly double what was raised two years ago. Funds raised will go to the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund scholarship challenge grant and the Fund for PSU, which supports scholarships, faculty research, and new programs throughout the University.

This year's Simon Benson Award recipients were Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer, and Irving Levin and Stephanie Fowler. 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 gave 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" and this year's "ParaNorman." Knight earned a bachelor's degree in social science from PSU in 1998. His wife, Donna, is also a PSU alum.

Diane Keaton, award-winning actress, director, producer and screenwriter, was the keynote speaker. Her appearance along with Knight put a spotlight on Portland as a popular location for television and movie production. PSU is the only public university in the Pacific Northwest to offer a degree in film, which is one of the fastest-growing majors on campus with 273 students.

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 its 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, University of Oregon, and the Oregon Symphony, as well as provided more than $1.6 million in contributions to PSU since 1998.

Arlene and her late husband Harold received honorary doctorates from PSU in 2004. Contributions from the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation made it possible for PSU to hire its first tenured faculty member in Judaic Studies. The family also supported PSU's School of Fine and Performing Arts with a leadership gift to create the DePreist Professorship to advance diversity in the arts.

Jordan Schnitzer has received numerous honors and awards, including the PSU President's Award for Outstanding Philanthropy in 2002. He serves on PSU’s Judaic Studies Steering Committee and is a strong supporter of PSU's Center for Real Estate.

Jordan has also received 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.

Levin and Fowler created a scholarship at PSU for undergraduate students who are the first in their family to attend college. More than 60 students have benefited from the scholarship. They also recently created a new scholarship for 30 or more students in the Graduate School of Education who were the first in their family to attend college and now are working toward a teaching career. Levin and Fowler also developed the concept and provided seed funding for PSU’s entrepreneurial leadership program in partnership with Mercy Corps and Digital Divide Data. More than 250 local business managers and students from 35 countries have completed the six-week certificate program.

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.

Bank of America was the presenting sponsor of this year's event. It also received the support of the following lead sponsors:

Principal Level Sponsors

Fred Meyer Stores, Howard S. Wright Constructors, Peter W. Stott Foundation, The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, The Hedinger Family Foundation, The Renaissance Foundation.

Leadership Sponsors

Chase Bank, Key Bank, Portland Monthly Magazine, Pete and Chris Nickerson, Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Foundation, Umpqua Bank, The Greenbrier Companies.

About Portland State University (PSU)
Located in Portland, Oregon, PSU has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. PSU’s motto is "Let Knowledge Serve the City," and we provide every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. Our downtown campus exhibits PSU’s commitment to sustainability with green buildings, while sustainability is incorporated into much of the curriculum.

 

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