Oregon $150M donation breaks national record

The Oregon Community Foundation

The Oregon Community Foundation announced a $150 million gift from the estate of Fred W. Fields. The gift will establish the Fred W. Fields Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation to support education and the arts.

It is the largest single gift ever made to OCF and one of the largest single gifts made to any community foundation in the country.

“OCF is honored to be the steward of a gift that will annually provide millions of dollars in support for essential education and arts programs in communities across the state,” said Max Williams, OCF President and CEO. “It is really a gift to Oregon – and will continue the generous spirit of giving personified by Fred and Sue Fields.”

Established in 1973 by Portland philanthropist William Swindells Sr., The Oregon Community Foundation was formed as a permanent endowment for community improvement efforts throughout the state. It is now the largest foundation in Oregon with $1.1 billion in assets. The Foundation works with individuals, families and businesses to create charitable funds to support community causes in which they are interested. Through these funds, OCF disbursed approximately $86 million in grants and scholarships in 2011.

“Fred loved business, he loved engineering and he loved Oregon. He was a generous person in his lifetime and wanted to establish this permanent fund to continue that support in perpetuity,” said OCF Board Chair Eric Parsons. “We are thrilled that he chose to place his fund at OCF.”

Born in Alexandria, Indiana, Fred Fields studied engineering at Indiana University and Purdue University. In 1947, Fields went to work for Coe Manufacturing Company, a relationship that would last 53 years. Headquartered in Ohio, the company designed and constructed machinery that milled veneer, plywood and other products. When plywood began to be produced from Douglas firs, Fields transferred to Oregon where he became the West Coast manager. Fields purchased Coe in 1976 and headed the company until 2000, when he sold it.

Fields met and married Suzanne Schoenfeldt in 1958. He and Sue believed that education prepares young people to be innovators. Their philanthropy included generous contributions to Lewis & Clark College, OHSU, the University of Oregon and others.

The Fields’ also believed that art stretches the imagination and drives new ideas. Their support of culture and the arts includes major gifts to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society.

“Fred’s humble roots shaped his life. He was never extravagant, though he had the means to be. He instead wanted to use his wealth to support causes that he and his wife, Sue, felt strongly about. His bequest will continue this legacy of generosity and we will be a better state for it,” said Fields estate trustee Bill Tagmyer.

When Fields died December 13, he left significant bequests to many of the organizations that he and Sue had donated to during their lifetimes: to Lewis & Clark College, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Portland Art Museum, the Columbia River Maritime Museum and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon, to name a few.

“We are excited and humbled by the faith that Mr. Fields put in the Foundation. The OCF Board of Directors is just beginning a process to determine the best way to use the returns from this permanent fund,” said Williams.

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