Former Portland State dean honored with new architecture scholarship
Author: Tanya Gross
Posted: October 9, 2013

Barbara A. Sestak, former dean of Portland State University’s College of the Arts, received a happy surprise on Oct. 4: a $50,000 endowed scholarship for architecture students created in her honor. 

The new Barbara A. Sestak Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to outstanding architecture students, including those with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company, pledged $25,000 and the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund will match that amount with $25,000 to create the first named scholarship endowment in the School of Architecture.

“I was completely surprised and felt very honored,” said Sestak. “This scholarship will be of great value to our students in supporting them through their professional degree program.”

Sestak, a trained architect and PSU architecture faculty member for more than 30 years, (shown at left with Howard S. Wright president and vice president Jim Sather and Dan Pelissier) led the transformation of PSU’s School of Fine and Performing Arts into the College of the Arts and created new professional programs in art, film and architecture. Her work led to national accreditation this year of PSU’s master of architecture degree. Sestak served as interim dean for one year and dean for six years before stepping down at the end of the 2012-13 academic year to return to the School of Architecture faculty. 

“The impact Barbara has had on the University and the city will be known for years,” said Howard S. Wright Vice President Dan Pelissier. “We have worked with her over time and we have been inspired by her vision. She didn’t just focus on the task at hand. She focused on the big picture.”

Robert Bucker, current dean of the College of the Arts, said “We are especially grateful to the company for its commitment to our students.” 

PSU enrolls and graduates more students than any other university in Oregon. Yet state funding provides less than 12 percent of its budget, increasing the burden on tuition and private gifts. Scholarships are a top fund-raising priority at PSU. In fiscal year 2013, 26 percent of gifts to the university were for scholarships and student aid, including a gift of $1.5 million—the largest gift for scholarships in PSU history.