Simon Benson Awards this Monday

The fourth-annual Simon Benson Awards dinner will be held Oct. 14 at the Oregon Convention Center to honor and thank Portland State University’s biggest donors.

Mary Coniglio, assistant alumni director, said the event is Portland’s premier philanthropy event. The recipients for this year’s award are Jeannine Cowles and Ernest Swigert.

Cowles has been involved in the department of music at Portland State University, the Portland Opera and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Swigert is president of the Swigert Foundation, which supports a number of Oregon non-profits in cultural, religious, education, medical and civic activities.

Proceeds from the event are deposited in the Portland fund. A percentage of that money will go toward scholarships.

The former mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, will be the guest speaker at this year’s dinner.

About 1,000 people are expected to attend the event. Seating is almost at full capacity, according to Leslie Grasa, director of annual events and Simon Benson Awards coordinator. Each ticket costs $200.

Grasa said that the university was able to get Giuliani to speak at the event because of Portland State’s involvement in the Flight for Freedom.

Flight for Freedom participants made trips from Portland to New York in honor and support of Sept. 11 victims. Portland State Foundation board committee member Sho Dozono was a co-organizer of the event.

Grasa said that Giuliani is expected to discuss leadership in difficult times. Grasa pointed out that Giuliani’s new book “Leadership” was released Oct. 1.

Past speakers at the awards include Bob Dole, Mario Cuomo and Gen. Colin Powell.

Wells Fargo and Fred Meyer sponsor the dinner. Tickets are available to the public by calling Grasa at 503-725-8212.

According to Coniglio, the award dinner was named for Simon Benson, who was known as Portland’s first citizen and a great philanthropist. Benson contributed the land and money to build Benson High School; and the land for Benson State Park, Multnomah Falls and the Columbia Gorge Highway. He also made many other contributions to Oregon.

The Simon Benson house was moved to campus Jan. 16, 2000. This Queen Anne-style home is more than a century old.

The house is now home the Alumni Relations and Alumni Association and is a visitor center.

“It’s wonderful to have a visible presence on campus,” Coniglio said.