PSU founder honored

A new housing complex expected to be completed by fall term 2003 will be named after Portland State’s founder, Stephen E. Epler.

Gordon Dodds, emeritus professor of history and a university archivist, considers Epler’s honor to be “quite an overdue gesture.”

The new, six-story, 130-unit student residence will replace the old, 13-unit Birmingham House. According to a recent press release, much of the old building will be recycled and the old fixtures reused in the new Epler Hall.

The university expects that Epler Hall, designed by Mithum Architects and constructed by Walsh Construction, will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.

Cathy Dyck, associate vice president of finance and administration, likes the idea of the new building’s LEED certification.

“Especially for Oregon and for Portland State, it is a great thing,” she said.

Epler, born October 5, 1909, was known as a problem solver.

“Stephen Epler wanted to really contribute to society,” Dodds, said.

According to Dodds, after World War II, there was no room for veterans in the existing schools, so Epler helped to create the Vanport Extension Center. After the Vanport flooded in 1948, Epler re-established the center at various locations before settling the center of higher education in downtown Portland.

Epler fought to keep the center going, and by 1955 had transformed it into a four-year institution, Portland State College. In 1965, the school became a university, as it is today. Epler died on July 12, 1997.

Because of Epler constant dedication to the school, Dodds considers him to be “the founder and savior of Portland State.”

“Without Stephen Epler, there wouldn’t be a Portland State,” he said.

According to Gary Withers, vice president for university relations, “The people he (Epler) liked the most were the students.”

Dodds agreed and added that because Epler Hall will be a student residence, it is “very, very appropriate to name this particular building after Epler.”

Epler Hall will help the university cope with increased enrollment and the on-going need for student housing.

“There’s always a shortage (of housing) at Portland State,” Dyck said. “(Epler Hall) provides more options again.”