News

The Portland Professional Forum's Enduring Tribute to a Friend
Author: John Carr
Posted: November 7, 2018

 Members of the Portland Professional Forum attend the 2018 School of Business Scholarship Reception, posing with the Allen Peck Portland Professional Forum Endowed Scholarship scholarship recipient.

Photo Caption: Members of the Portland Professional Forum attend the 2018 School of Business Scholarship Reception, posing with the Allen Peck Portland Professional Forum Endowed Scholarship scholarship recipient. 

As members of the Portland Professional Forum met at 2018 School of Business Scholarship Reception last May, they took pride in having created a robust scholarship at the PSU School of Business, the Allen Peck Portland Professional Forum Endowed Scholarship. What began as a tribute to a departed friend now stands as an enduring legacy of the group as well.

The Portland Professional Forum

Formed in 1981, the Portland Professional Forum (PPF) was envisioned by its founding members as a way to make new friends while expanding their professional networks. A couple of features set it apart from other professional associations.

First is that membership is limited to a specific, yet sliding, age window. In 1981, membership was open to those 25 to 40 years old, and that age range has advanced one year, per year, since that time.

"One of our founding members learned of this idea from an older gentleman who'd been involved in a similar group formed in 1926," explains Lou Lauman, longtime PPF member. "He said it had been a very nice social and occasional business vehicle with members of roughly the same age facing similar issues in life and career. I don't know of anything else quite like it."

The second defining feature of the group is only one person from any particular industry can be invited to join. This allowed members to broaden their networks beyond their industry and made it more likely that they would benefit each other in business.

"We've had businessmen, an educator, psychologist, CPA, stock broker, banker, and so on," explains Lauman. "If you had a business challenge, this was a good group to bounce it off of. There was a lot of diversity in knowledge and skills. The one constant is that members had to be upstanding, honorable people."

Allen Peck '73

The sole accountant invited into the group was Allen Peck '73. Peck graduated from PSU with bachelor's degree in business administration and worked as a CPA at Peck and Kopacek P.C. A husband and father of two, he died of a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 52.

Steven Brenner, a retired professor of business at PSU and fellow PPF member, recalls meeting Peck for the first time when Peck was a senior at PSU taking Brenner's business policy course.

"I've taught for 33 years, and you just remember certain students. Allen was a singular person," says Brenner. "We would analyze a different case each class, and Allen would show up with a briefcase, spreadsheets, analysis, and all the criteria he'd used to make the key decisions."

Friends consistently describe Peck as smart, honorable, and fun to be around. "If you had to ride in a car with Allen for four or five hours, it was just great because you knew you were going to have fun," says Lauman. "He was a heck of a good guy and good at what he did."

Peck eventually served as the accountant for many of the PPF's members. Brenner recalls going to Peck's office at the height of tax season and noticing that his desk and credenza were perfectly clear.

"He was a man of honor, ability, and dedication to his profession," says Brenner. "Keep in mind, I'm talking about a former student of mine, not a mentor. That's how much I admired this guy. Allen would have been a continuing friend and asset to our community."

Peck was one of the youngest members of the PPF and the first to pass away. His sudden death hit his family and friends hard, and they knew they had to do something special to honor him.

An enduring tribute

The PPF established a scholarship fund back in 1991 to support graduate students at the PSU School of Business, a need Brenner helped to identify. When Peck died twelve years later, an outpouring of support from his friends and colleagues resulted in a second scholarship fund in his honor. The two funds were later merged into one to increase the impact.

Today, the Allen Peck Portland Professional Forum Endowed Scholarship supports one PSU student annually, undergraduate or graduate, from the School of Business. Recipients must have a 3.5 GPA and demonstrated financial need. A preference is given to students studying accounting or finance who identify as a single parent.

Now that the dozen or so remaining members of PPF are retired, the group is purely social, meeting a few times a year for potlucks, a holiday party, an annual meeting, and, of course, the scholarship reception. There they get to meet the students who, thanks to this gift in memory of Peck, can pursue a degree and launch their own profession.

"I've met several of the recipients, and they are right in that strike zone — they really need the money and are academically very strong," says Lauman. "Allen would be very proud to have his name associated with this scholarship."

Charmaine Peck, Allen's widow, agrees. "Allen would think this was a great honor," she says. "Both of our sons graduated from PSU too, so it's quite an honor for us as a family."

If you would like to help grow the Allen Peck Portland Professional Forum Endowed Scholarship, or to establish your own scholarship fund at the School of Business, please contact Lauren Vannini, Associate Director of Development, at 503-725-3766 or vanninil@psuf.org.

To make a gift to support the School of Business, visit the Foundation webpage