Two prominent philanthropic families to be honored at PSU's Simon Benson Awards dinner
Author: Scott Gallagher, University Communications
Posted: August 18, 2011

Portland State University (PSU) has named the William Furman family and the Melvin Mark family as the honorees for the 2011 Simon Benson Awards. These two Portland-area families over several decades have given millions of dollars to the arts, education, and nonprofit organizations and will be honored at PSU’s 12th annual Simon Benson Awards dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

William Furman is the co-founder, president and CEO of The Greenbrier Companies in Lake Oswego, a multifaceted rail and marine barge manufacturing company operating in North America and Europe. His late wife, Joyce, was passionate about social work and served PSU on the School of Social Work Advisory Board. The couple’s major philanthropy at PSU include the newly established Joyce N. Furman Fund in the School of Social Work, which will fund efforts to prevent youth homelessness by improving foster care. In collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s, this project opened a “partnershop” on the PSU campus this summer, offering employment to homeless teens and young adults participating in programs of New Avenues for Youth. The Furmans were also leadership donors to the School of Social Work’s Campbell Endowed Professorship in Children, Youth and Family Mentoring which focuses on developing and sharing best practices in the field with social work practitioners nationally.

Melvin "Pete" Mark is the chairman of the Melvin Mark Companies, a commercial real estate firm founded by his father Mel in 1945. He and his late wife, Mary, have supported a variety of institutions within Portland, particularly the Portland Art Museum. He is a board member of the museum, as was Mary until her passing in 2008. Mark is a former member of PSU's President's Advisory Board and the athletics department's Ultimate Tailgate Auction Committee. Gifts from various members of the Mark family to PSU include support for the College of Urban and Public Affairs, President's Circle, David Weisenburg Memorial Endowed Scholarship for Veterans, and the Center for Real Estate.

The Simon Benson Awards dinner will be held at the Oregon Convention Center, and will feature keynote speaker Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Rice served as national security advisor and secretary of state under President George W. Bush. She is currently a professor of political economy at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and is the Thomas and Barbara Stephensen Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

The Simon Benson Awards Dinner will kick off PSU Weekend which takes place on campus October 21-23. PSU Weekend is a unique community-wide event that welcomes more than 1,200 PSU alumni and friends to campus for a series of educational and entertainment activities. This PSU Weekend welcomes Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants author, as keynote speaker and will feature tours and faculty presentations in the newly renovated Science Research and Teaching Center. For more information about PSU Weekend, see

Presenting Sponsor of the dinner
Miller Family Holdings

Associate Sponsors of the dinner
The Greenbrier Companies/Ambassador Charles and Caroline Swindells, Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund, Stimson Lumber, Peter and Julie Stott, Howard S. Wright Constructors

Supporting Sponsors of the dinner
BNSF Foundation, Canadian Pacific, Jeannine B. Cowles, Tom and Marilyn Fink, Geffen Mesher & Co., GBD Architects/R&H Construction, Gerding Edlen/Beecher Carlson, Jack and Lynn Loacker, The Melvin Mark Companies, Harry A. Merlo Foundation, Inc./Global Aviation Inc., Pete and Chris Nickerson, Oregon Business Magazine, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc., Henry W. Schuette, Skanska, Stevens Integrated Solutions, Tonkon Torp LLP, Wells Fargo

Named after one of Oregon’s first philanthropists, the Simon Benson Award was created by PSU in 1999 to honor the region’s contemporary pioneers in philanthropy.  Recipients are community leaders who have generously given time and resources to improve the lives of generations of Oregonians. A key objective of the event is to highlight the impact and raise the profile of philanthropy throughout Oregon. In 2010, the Simon Benson Awards Dinner raised more than $500,000, supporting students, faculty, and campus programs at PSU.

To purchase tickets for the Simon Benson Awards Dinner: or contact Lea Pfau at or 503-725-5078.