Decision near on Jay Kenton

Jay Kenton, considered almost a miracle worker as vice president for finance and administration when he was at Portland State, expects to know within two weeks if he’s headed back to Oregon as vice chancellor of the Oregon University System (OUS).

Kenton said he is scheduled for a final interview Thursday with the OUS finance committee. His position with OUS would be vice chancellor for finance and administration.

"It should be settled next week or the week after," he said Monday in a phone interview from Idaho. Kenton left Portland State last June 30 to become vice president for finance and administration at the University of Idaho.

"I long to get back to Oregon," he said this week. He has been one of three candidates for the OUS position. The others were Nancy Heiligman, assistant vice chancellor for budget with OUS, and Olin Cleve McDaniel, vice president of an educational foundation in Bakersfield, Calif.

At OUS, Kenton would be serving under his former boss at Portland State, George Pernsteiner, who currently holds the position of OUS acting chancellor.

Asked if Pernsteiner personally invited him to apply for the OUS position, Kenton sidestepped a direct answer, saying, "Well, George and I have been in communication," implying an ongoing relationship.

Kenton came to PSU in 1988, beginning as director of business affairs and subsequently becoming associate vice president for finance and administration. When Pernsteiner, then vice president for finance and administration, left in 2002, Kenton took over the vice presidential chair.

Kenton became known as a wizard at creative financing for buildings and projects, especially after the OUS entered a period of very tight budgets two years ago. Among his achievements were the Broadway housing project, the Epler building, acquisition of the Doubletree Hotel (renamed University Place) and creating the business accelerator project off campus in Southwest Portland.

A new student recreation building got his support after he added several floors of student housing to the original concept – a feature since dropped from the project in favor of new university administration offices.

While at Portland State, Kenton became known as an executive who visualized a future of continued expansion of the Portland State campus and revitalization of the University district. He foresaw the need to replace the PCAT building and advocated renovating some other buildings to permit more ground level retail businesses.

He had an eye for acquiring available real estate anywhere near the present campus limits and worked closely with the Portland Development Commission. He also foresaw a future involvement of the university in the developing South Waterfront area after the aerial tramway from Oregon Health Sciences University becomes a reality.