When George Hoyt was in high school in Portland, Oregon, he and a group of friends performed a “Sunshine Can Review” to raise money for the Sunshine Division, a charity in which his mother was involved. Following in his mother’s footsteps, George has been involved in not-for-profit organizations, including the Sunshine Division, as long as he can remember.
Similarly, Colleen Hoyt has dedicated herself to tirelessly supporting not-for-profits such as the Brooklyn YWCA, where she served as executive director for several years, and the Sandy Public Library, which has been the recipient of her energy and expertise for the past 18 years.
While both George and Colleen had highly successful business careers and lived all over the country, a constant in their lives has been steadfast support of charitable organizations. “That’s how you serve,” George says. “It goes with the territory.”
Against this background, the couple has pledged $1 million to Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management to provide scholarships for students committed to managing not-for-profit organizations.
“The Hoyts’ generous gift is an unprecedented step in offering scholarships to those committed to a career in not-for-profit management,” said Debra Ringold, dean and JELD-WEN Professor of Free Enterprise.
George grew up in Portland as part of a pioneer Oregon family. Portland’s renowned Hoyt Arboretum and Hoyt Street are named for his ancestors. He attended Willamette University and received his undergraduate degree in economics in 1958. After working for several years at the Tigard Times, a community newspaper, he attended graduate school at the University of Oregon where he earned his M.B.A. in 1963. He then returned to the newspaper business in the Portland area, but before long was off to a newspaper group in Chicago, followed by Washington, D.C., where he worked as publisher of the Washington Star.
While at the Washington Star, George met Colleen, who worked at the newspaper for 22 years, the last four as director of promotions and public relations. Colleen moved to Pennsylvania for a short time, then returned to Washington, where she worked for an advertising agency as head of accounts and manager of the National Public Broadcasting account.
Colleen and George reconnected in Washington (“It’s a small community,” Colleen said), married in 1982 and moved to Brooklyn, New York. George worked at Time Inc., managing monthly magazine production and postal affairs. Colleen got involved with the Brooklyn YWCA and signed on as executive director. She turned down the salary, working as a volunteer to get the organization on solid footing.
George and Colleen spent the last ten years of their careers in California, first in the San Francisco area and then in the Los Angeles area until, as Colleen quipped, “it was too smoggy to see across the street from our house.” In 1994 they retired to Sandy, Oregon.
Over the years, George had been a financial supporter of Willamette University and in 1989 he was asked to join the Board of Trustees. He served on several committees and chaired both the Development Committee and the Atkinson Graduate School Management Committee. He continues to serve on both those committees as a life trustee.
George led 2008 and 2012 strategic planning groups for Atkinson. He became involved in the search for a dean, resulting in the selection of Debra Ringold in 2008. Seeing the graduate school at the cusp of success and believing it was an opportunity that had not achieved its potential, he emerged as an advocate for positive change. “I became quite invested in Atkinson at that point,” George said.
Meanwhile, returning to his Oregon roots, George got re-involved in the Sunshine Division, the charity that had been his mother’s passion, and made it one of his own. Colleen dedicated herself to the Sandy Library and was instrumental in building the Friends' bookstore, which she continues to manage. George also became involved with the Sandy community, becoming president of the Sandy Main Street project and the Sandy Library, as well as serving on many government and civic organizations.
Through such experience, the couple has seen not-for-profits are often undermanaged. “They are so mission-driven, they fail to see themselves as a business and don’t have the skills to handle financial, legal and people management,” Colleen said. “They need business skills, practical skills.”
Educating managers of not-for profits is one of the three Atkinson Graduate School missions. Willamette’s MBA program is one of only two in the world accredited for both business and public management. As part of the curriculum, students work directly with not-for-profit organizations.
“The quality of the experiential programs, the personal involvement of the faculty and the mix of business and government students make it a rich learning environment,” George explains. “We saw that Atkinson is the perfect place to focus on not-for-profit managers. Building an endowment to provide scholarships for these managers is a natural solution to the challenges we’ve seen.”
The goal of the scholarship program is to make Atkinson more affordable for people who are dedicated to not-for-profit management. Hoyt Scholarships will be awarded to students with previous not-for-profit experience who demonstrate a commitment to serve that community or those with an expressed desire to do so.
“It is my belief that our investment in scholarships for committed managers not only extends the Atkinson mission but will build a cadre of not-for-profit managers who in years to come will strengthen organizations across the Pacific Northwest,” George said.
For George and Colleen Hoyt, this generous gift is an exclamation point on a lifetime of giving back.