PSU mourns loss of former president

When former Portland State President Joseph Blumel passed away early in the morning on April 2, the university lost a key player and true friend to the college’s early development.

When former Portland State President Joseph Blumel passed away early in the morning on April 2, the university lost a key player and true friend to the college’s early development.

“President Blumel was a gracious gentleman in all his contacts,” said Margaret Dobson, who served as vice president of academics during Blumel’s time as president. “He was well liked by the faculty, frequently having coffee with them in the morning and afternoon.”

Starting out his career as professor of economics, Blumel rose to become a “hands-on” president because of his immersion to the university workings and the community, Dobson said. Blumel believed part of immersing himself in the university was being a part of his staff’s lives.

“He was very considerate of people,” said Ken Harris, who worked in the budget office with Blumel, starting in the late ’60s. “A very good listener I always felt. He always took things under considerable consideration and would stick by his decisions.”

There was even a time Blumel insisted on attending the wedding of a budget office employee, Alan Kolibaba.

“I sent Blumel an invitation more as a courtesy than anything else, and he came to my wedding,” said Kolibaba. “It’s a very nice memory of him doing that, I was very pleased certainly.”

Blumel’s cordiality and consideration didn’t end with social graces, however.

Throughout his years as president he pushed for equality among PSU faculty and staff, using his deliberate approach to help university development.

“He was very careful in the way he put together proposals and continued to push our faculty being equal,” said Harris. “He believed we should all be considered the same in terms of salary and benefits and so forth.”

During the 1970s, when higher education was facing severe budget cuts, Blumel’s compassion and penchant for detail helped PSU avoid several financial crises and minimize faculty cutbacks with realignment processes.

“We went through several crises together, and it’s not easy to have to cancel programs,” said Harris. “He was very careful to do everything he could before we had to let faculty go.”

Though PSU was facing hard times financially, realignment went a long way towards saving faculty jobs, said Dobson.

“We survived a difficult period that way,” she said.

During his 12-year run, Blumel was also involved in the creation of several new interdisciplinary degrees, as well as new doctorate and graduate programs, which contributed to the university’s burgeoning academic development.

“He was a very shrewd and successful in planning and development,” said Dobson. “The university was the main thing in serving the city of Portland and the state, and he truly believed in it.”

Blumel was an active member within the Portland community, serving as president of the Oregon Symphony in the 1970s, as well as for the Pacific Northwest College of Art. His involvement and appreciation of the arts came from his wife Pricilla, according to Dobson.

“His wife has a background in the arts, and as a result he became an admirer,” she said.

Even after Blumel retired, he continued to teach economics at Portland State and remained active in and around the city community.

“He was very popular as a professor,” said Dobson. “He believed in the city of Portland and what the needs were academically.”

Blumel had recently suffered a heart attack before he died, and a case of pneumonia. His wife and two adult daughters held a private service for him last week.

The Blumels also have a granddaughter. A memorial service on campus will give staff a chance to remember the former president.

“I have a great deal of respect for the man and what he did in his position,” Kolibaba said.

The university service will be held in the coming weeks.