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PSU’s 2013 Urban Pioneer Award honors two leaders in assisted living
Author: University Communications
Posted: April 11, 2013

The College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University is pleased to honor Keren Brown Wilson and Michael DeShane for their groundbreaking work in helping people age with dignity. 

They will receive the 2013 Nohad A. Toulan Urban Pioneer Award for Public Service at the College’s hooding ceremony at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 14 in the Stott Center, 930 S.W. Hall St.

Wilson and DeShane, who are married, have devoted their careers to improving the lives of older adults. Wilson (PhD ’83) is known as a pioneer in the model of assisted living that started in Oregon and spread across the United States. She founded the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation, which advocates for quality housing and long-term care in the U.S. and Central America.

DeShane (MA ’71, PhD ’77) is president of Concepts in Community Living, a consulting, development and management firm that provides technical assistance for states and organizations and manages assisted living communities with a goal of maximizing independence for elders.

The couple has made a tremendous impact on the College of Urban and Public Affairs and its students. They have been generous donors to the building campaign, academic programs and student scholarships. 

“Keren and Michael are exceptional people who have made an extraordinary difference,” said Larry Wallack, dean of the College. “Their generosity has helped us build buildings, extend more opportunity to more students and create bigger and better ideas about aging in the 21st century. Their intelligence, commitment and generosity combine to benefit our university and community.”

Wilson and DeShane donated $1 million to fund the Aging Matters Locally and Globally initiative in PSU’s Institute on Aging. The initiative is working to change the ways communities plan for and address quality of life issues for older adults. The initiative’s projects include Dr. Paula Carder and Jenny Weinstein’s 2012 report on older adults who live in public housing. Their findings revealed an immediate need for affordable housing for older adults in the greater Portland region, as well as the need for Portland’s public housing agency, Home Forward, to improve their provision of supportive services for older adults.

DeShane and Wilson support a scholarship program for students who complete their first two years of education at Clackamas Community College then transfer to Portland State University to complete a bachelor’s degree. Wilson also helped start a service-learning program that takes students from PSU, Concordia University and Pacific University to Nicaragua each year. She will help lead the next group in June.

The Toulan award, named for the College’s founding dean, honors leaders for their contributions to the political, social and physical landscape of our region. Past awardees include Ernie Bonner, Kay Toran, Vera Katz, Mike Lindberg, Gretchen Kafoury, Charles Jordan, Governor Barbara Roberts, Mike Houck, and John Russell.