PSU alumni more mature than most other graduates

The alumni of Portland State University can claim more maturity than that of most universities, which means that PSU alums are decidedly different.

The difference was pointed out by Patricia Squire, director of alumni relations.

“Our students are transitioning,” she said. “At a lot of colleges, the commencement speaker says something like, ‘Well, welcome to the real world.’ I think the really cool thing about PSU students is that they already operate in the real world. Just because they’re in college doesn’t mean they aren’t in the real world.”

She sees students as already really grounded.

“By the time they become alums, it’s really a minor blip in their transition or in their history. We’re all adults as students here.”

She hopes students at PSU would feel proud to be part of a strong group of nearly 90,000 people who have degrees from Portland State, a large number considering the university started in 1946.

“Our students are emerging as a power in our state and around the world,” she said. In graduating, students are joining some influential people.

A number of Oregon legislators are alumni. Michael Schrunk, Multmomah County district attorney, is an alum. Former Mayor Bud Clark attended Vanport, the predecessor of PSU.

One noted alum is Mike Richardson, owner of the prestigious Dark Horse Comics, which have spawned movie versions. Another is Steve Amen, award-winning TV producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“We’ve got some now-retired CEO’s of U.S. Bank and the formerly U.S. West who have become major contributors to the university,” she said.

Another notable figure is Ray Guenther, chief of operations at Intel. Intel used to say it recruited at places like Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Now they may not actively recruit here, but we now have the largest number of alums of any single institution that works at Intel,” she said. They number more than 750. She sees this as a pride factor for PSU alumni.

Squire’s office wants to keep in touch with alumni and does a mailing to them soon after they graduate. It talks about the benefits of being a PSU grad. And they can start getting PSU magazine, produced by Kathryn Kirkland of the publications office, three times a year. The magazine is free to alumni. They don’t have to pay any dues to receive it, but they do need to keep the alumni office informed of their address.

The office also offers the alumni benefit card, which allows alumni to use facilities on campus almost as if they were still students. There is a fee for these activities. One fee is for the Peter Stott Center gym, one is for the library and there is also one for access to some computer labs. The fee helps pay the alumni office for the administration of the program.

Recipients of the benefit card get an identification card and discounts on some PSU events.

“Mainly people like it because it gives them access to campus facilities,” Squire said. One reason for charging the fees is that most alumni live in the Portland area, and if they were given unlimited access to campus facilities such as the gym, the facility could be overrun with alums.

“It’s like belonging to a health club,” Squire explained. “Just because you went here doesn’t mean you should get it for free.”

The alumni office publishes a brochure that explains the alumni benefit card system. The basic card is $10 and carries a number of benefits, some of them one-time. It includes the privilege of joining the PSU Bookstore for the regular membership fee of $1. Extra optional additional fees include library privileges for an annual fee of $15, Stott Center facilities for an annual fee of $197 and an annual fee of $180 for three specified computer labs. The parking office has special fees for alumni, as does the Career Center.

Squire sees many activities on campus that can benefit alumni. Various schools and departments do things for their alums, such as special events to keep them connected to the university. Typically, they will be free and will be something like a wine and cheese reception.

When students graduate, their student records are transferred into the alumni database, which is kept at the PSU Foundation, a separate, non-profit corporation. This is how the alumni office keeps track of graduates.

The alumni office will be doing more e-mailing to alums to keep them advised of what’s going one.

The association is governed by a 20-member all-volunteer board, with a number of different committees. One of these is an advocate committee, which does lobbying on behalf of PSU. This is a large committee, composed of about 500 members around the state.

A big event in the fall is PSU Weekend. This runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 7-9. The weekend features noted speakers, faculty talks and social events. Some events carry a charge, but many are free and open to the public. The featured speaker this year is Frances Mayes, author of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and professor of English at San Francisco State College. The book is being made into a movie coming out in the fall starring Diane Lane.

“We like to keep alums connected by offering them some things that they wouldn’t have taken time to do when they were students, but still allows them to enjoy the richness of Portland State,” Squire said. Sometimes there are events built around PSU opera. Football games are less of the major focus they are at some universities.

“It’s not a dues-paying organization,” Squire emphasized, unless alumni want to pay the fees for some of the benefit card programs. “We certainly hope their experience at Portland State will make them want to give back to the university, either financially or by volunteering to be on committees or serve in a variety of capacities. But it’s not a requirement.”

The alumni office has operated in the Simon Benson house since it moved on campus in December, 2000. Squire finds operating in the house, rather than the former location in the basement of Cramer hall, gives alumni a sense of pride in the office. She has been here since 1989, when alumni totaled only 50,000.

“I’m proud of my degree from Portland State,” Squire said. “That’s what we hope our students will feel when they graduate. I think they should feel proud of their accomplishments.”

Those interested in becoming active in alumni affairs can visit the office in the Simon Benson house Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call 503-725-5072 or e-mail [email protected].