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Alumni Connections: Spring 2007
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: May 24, 2007

Meet our first association members

Dolores Leon '70 and Sara Pennington '06

DOLORES LEON (left) WAS 32 years old, a wife and mother of four young children when she earned a biology degree from Portland State in 1970. Remarkably, just one year later, she started medical school to become a physician.

The same drive to succeed, but entirely different circumstances, led Sara Pennington ’06 to earn a degree in communication studies this past December.

These women have much in common, including the certainty that PSU has positively impacted their lives. That is why they were the first to become members of the new PSU Alumni Association membership program, which gives them exclusive benefits and better connects them to other alumni and the University.

“There’s sort of a pride factor in wanting to stay connected,” says Pennington, who became the first New Grad member of the association. “I graduated from PSU and am proud of it.

I think it would be great to meet other alumni, see where they’ve gone, and learn what they have done since PSU.”

Leon, who has served on a variety of PSU committees and boards since graduation, signed up to be a Life Member before the membership form was posted on the Web.

“I was grateful for my education and promised myself that I would give back when the appropriate time came,” says Leon. “I am and will forever be grateful to PSU and my professors for an excellent education that enabled me to pursue my dream of being a physician.”

Leon, who is now retired, studied medicine at Oregon Health & Science University and became an anesthesiologist. Today, more students from Portland State are admitted to OHSU than any other institution, but that was not always the case.

“I felt a lot of pressure,” remembers Leon. “If you were older than 25, they thought you were too old to start medical school.” She was one of only nine women enrolled in her class of 100 and the only one with children. But she was prepared. “There was no difference in my ability to compete having graduated from PSU,” says Leon.

Pennington, who grew up in Ashland, was seeking a more urban lifestyle when she chose PSU. She found the amenities and activities she was looking for, thanks to the school’s downtown location. Pennington attended football games, theater productions, and spent time enjoying the Park Blocks.

“I still live by PSU, so I see the campus everyday,” says Pennington, who recently became an associate agent for Ranstad, a staffing agency. “It’s a great neighborhood, and you never have to go far to get anything you want.”

In addition to their PSU Alumni Association membership, both women have family connections to the University. Leon’s husband, Fernando, is a strong supporter of PSU, and their son, Regan Leon, and his wife, Gina, are graduates. Pennington is engaged to PSU student Forrest Menanno, who is finishing his degree in political science. They plan to marry in August.

Learn more about the new PSU Alumni Association Membership Program, and join today at

Story by Adam Smith
Photo by Russ Gorman

Arabian nights in Riyadh

President Dan Bernstine atop a camel

Saudi Arabia-based alumni Abdulaziz and Abdullah Al-Athel and others hosted the fourth annual PSU Gulf Cooperation Council Alumni Reunion in their country’s capital city of Riyadh on March 27 and 28. President Dan Bernstine, Portland State faculty and graduate students, and alumni from other Gulf countries spent fours days getting to know each other and the area.

The host committee organized a banquet attended by the PSU delegation and some 80 alumni at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh. The following night, Abdullah Al-Athel welcomed alumni to his farm. The Portland State delegation rode camels and horses and then the alumni joined the group and were treated to a reception with traditional music, dancing, and a buffet under the stars. More than 125 people savored the evening.

The delegation’s visit in and around Riyadh included a tour of the Arabic Horse Center, the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, and a meeting with executives at SABIC, a manufacturer of chemicals, fertilizers, and other materials. SABIC’s CEO Mohamed H. Al-Mady attended Portland State.

“We enjoyed the gracious hospitality of our hosts, and it was great to see former hosts Hassan Al-Ghanim (Qatar 2005) and Abdullah Al-Saleh (Kuwait 2006) there too,” says Pat Squire, assistant vice president for alumni and constituent relations. “The alums have so many good memories of their time at Portland State. And now we have good memories of our visit to Saudi Arabia.”

Organizer Samir Kabbani ’78, says he uses his degree from PSU’s School of Business and remembers Portland well. “But it’s the people who make it great,” he says. Other committee members included Mansour Al-Athel, Abdullah Al-Ghanem, Muneer Al-Muhanna, Abdulla Al-Mugairen, and Jamal Zamrawi.

Adulaziz Al-Athel, Muneer Al-Muhanna, and Samir KabbaniAdullah Al-Athel and Abdulaziz Al-Rashed endjoy a traditional dance with swords.

[Pictured above from top: President Dan Bernstine recieve a congratulatory hand from event co-host Abdulaziz Al-Athel. Bottom left: Abdulaziz Al-Athel, Muneer Al-Muhanna, and Samir Kabbani celebrate a successful alumni gathering in Riyadh. Bottom right: Co-host Abdullah Al-Athel (middle) and Abdulaziz Al-Rashed (right) enjoy the traditional dance with swords.]

Gathering in Palm Desert

Dan Bernstine with Kris Luvaas Meade '81, MS 97 (left) and Paulette York '71Friends and alumni of PSU gathered in Palm Desert, California, on March 24 in the home of longtime supporters Jack and Deane Garrison. Here, President Dan Bernstine poses with Kris Luvaas Meade '81, MS 97 (left) and Paulette York '71.

Save the date for PSU Weekend 2007

Now in its 17th year, PSU Weekend will continue its tradition of celebrating lifelong learning starting on Thursday, October 27. PSU Weekend brings alumni, friends, and members of the Portland community together for lectures, events, and socializing. It’s organized annually by Alumni Association volunteers as a gesture of thanks to Portland and to alumni and friends of the University.

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