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A Job Well Done
Author: Kathryn Kirkland; photo by Craig Mitchelldryer
Posted: May 24, 2007

Leaving a legacy of growth and pride

SOON AFTER DAN Bernstine became Portland State president, a small but determined group of students sat on the grassy field behind the Millar Library protesting its conversion to an artificial turf recreation field. Bulldozers were due later that week in June 1998.

Bernstine went out to the students bearing a large pizza. He sat, he listened, he ate. Students allowed construction to go ahead and the area is now known as the Peter Stott Community Recreation Field. The protest leader was among the first to reserve the field once it was complete.

“Dan Bernstine is definitely an awesome listener,” says Dan Garcia ’00, Vanguard editor at the time. “He has done what he felt was right for the University, and we would not be where we are today without his guidance in the past 10 years.”

After a decade of listening and working behind the scenes to build relationships, Bernstine, 59, is leaving Portland State. On July 1 he becomes the president and CEO of the Law School Admissions Council, a Pennsylvania-based organization that administers the entrance exam for U.S. law schools. Bernstine started his career as a lawyer in the early 1970s and was dean of the University of Wisconsin law school before becoming president of PSU.

President Dan Bernstine

BERNSTINE’S LEGACY INCLUDES record growth in enrollment, building, research, fundraising, and programs in Portland and abroad. But he is most proud of the University’s enhanced reputation and influence.

“We have an institutional swagger that we did not have before, “says Bernstine. “I think the community’s perception of Portland State has caught up with the reality of what we do here.”

Nohad Toulan, dean emeritus of the PSU College of Urban and Public Affairs, agrees.

“Dan came to PSU at a time when the University had accepted its urban mission and identity but had yet to figure what this meant and what an urban mission entails,” says Toulan. “He brought the University and the community together to define the nature and scope of the partnership. He leaves behind a University at ease with its mission and sure of its future and destiny.”

This future includes well-regarded programs in fields as diverse as urban planning, social work, publishing, and nanoscience. The University has earned numerous awards for the role community service plays in its curriculum. Its international education has resulted in pioneering relationships in the Middle East, China, and Vietnam, as well as a nearly 50 percent increase in international enrollment since 1999.

RESEARCH FUNDING DURING Bernstine’s tenure grew from $17 million to $40 million a year, and PSU’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign brought in $114 million, exceeding the original goal by $24 million.

“Working with partners in the city, the state and the private sector, Dan presided over a construction boom that included the Native American Center, the Urban Center and Plaza, innovative ‘green’ student housing, and a new engineering building housing the Maseeh College of Engineering,” says George Pernsteiner, Oregon University System chancellor.

But Bernstine’s most enduring contribution may be access and opportunity for students, which has resulted in enrollment of more than 25,000 students, making PSU the largest university in the state.

“Dan Bernstine shares my commitment to providing access to higher education for all Oregonians—giving many of our citizens the opportunity to educate themselves and to make a lasting impact on our state,” says Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.

With characteristic modesty, Bernstine is quick to point out he did not succeed at PSU without the help of many. “I took advantage of a great administrative team and momentum that was already under way,” he says. But he is obviously confident in his path and by forging new connections has elevated Portland State’s stature and promise, ensuring its prominent role in the future of Oregon.

Ten Years of Growth


1997: 17,165
2006: 25,483 (including 1,500 students from nearly 100 nations)


1997: $17 million
2006: $40 million


2006: $114 million raised in first comprehensive campaign
($24 million over goal)

Notable projects

2000: Urban Center and Plaza,
Simon Benson House

2001: Portland Streetcar comes to campus

2003: Epler Hall housing and classrooms

2004: Native American Student and Community Center,
The Broadway (mixed housing and retail),
Doubletree Hotel and its four acres acquired

2006: New building in Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology

2007: Light rail construction begins on campus