summer 2008 Edition
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major gifts shore up university mission

As the University enters the final year of the Campaign for Willamette, several major gifts have infused energy into campus activities and initiatives.

Ground Breaking - Ford Hall

Breaking ground for Ford Hall are (l–r) Allyn Ford, Carmen Ford Phillips, President M. Lee Pelton, Trustee Don Brown ’68, Dean Carol Long and Trustee Jonathan Carder ’68.

The thoughtful, soft-spoken demeanor of late philanthropist Hallie Ford was a reflection of her compassionate nature. She would have been gratified to see her children, son Allyn Ford and daughter Carmen Ford Phillips, gather with members of the campus community for the Ford Hall groundbreaking in May. Allyn spoke, University chaplain Charlie Wallace offered a blessing, the first shovel of dirt was turned, and construction was begun. Hallie’s $8 million leadership gift, along with gifts from trustees, provided half the funding for the building. “Resourceful and frugal in her personal life, my mother reserved most of her wealth to benefit others,” Allyn says. “She was a woman of few words but great vision, one who believed in the transformational value of the arts and education.”

The high-tech building will feature sustainable architecture, and the new landscaping will include a significant number of trees. The building will host arts and science classes beginning in the fall of 2009. View construction progress with the web cam at

Dr. Robert Seeger ’62 established the Lola Dasch Seeger ’31 and Mervin E. Seeger Science Scholarship Fund in memory of his late parents. A chemistry major, Seeger took after his mother, who studied biology. “My father didn’t have an opportunity to go to college because of the Depression, but my mother went to Willamette with the help of a scholarship,” Seeger says. Both parents strongly encouraged their sons to pursue higher education.

Seeger, who is professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and director of cancer research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, says the Willamette scholarship he received enabled him to obtain the education that provided the foundation for a career in academic medicine. By establishing a $200,000 endowment for the Seeger Science Scholarship, he will help generations of students with financial need who choose to pursue careers in medicine or biomedical science. “I am committed to supporting education,” he says.

When Roberto Casarez, executive director of Willamette Academy, first saw his budget, with a $100,000 donation from Bob and Barb Griffin, both Class of ’59, he thought he was looking at a typo. “The amount literally blew me away,” he says. “This is a true blessing for us.”

After Bob’s retirement as president of Medtronic, a leading pacemaker and defibrillator company, the Griffins turned to golf, gardening, travel — and compassionate engagement. They founded a health care project to serve the poorest families in Tanzania, Africa, and work with an outreach project in inner-city Minneapolis to help the homeless obtain housing and gain education and work skills. Now their generosity will assist ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged teens at Willamette Academy. “I was a ‘townie,’ and were it not for Willamette, it’s doubtful I would have gotten a college education,” Bob says. “Barbara and I were the first in our families to get a college degree, so we can empathize with the Willamette Academy goals.”

Trustee Brad King ’74, MAd’76 graduated with Atkinson’s first class. “We had no building when I started,” he recalls. That first year, classes were held in the west wing of Smith Auditorium. He served as student body president as an undergraduate and then in graduate school while working three jobs to make ends meet. “I also have one of the longevity awards for choir,” laughs King, who sang in the choir every year.

Now executive vice president and chief financial officer for Portland’s largest employer, Oregon Health & Science University, King hasn’t forgotten his alma mater. “I know it’s critically important for a dean to have discretionary funds to meet urgent needs,” he says of his recent $50,000 gift to the AGSM Dean’s Initiative Fund. “I appreciated my time at Atkinson, and I’m happy to do anything I can to further the experience of students and faculty members.”