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$2M gift from Schnitzer family to support Willamette merger with Pacific Northwest College of Art

by Office of Alumni and Parent Relations,

The Pacific Northwest College of Art always held a special place in Arlene Schnitzer’s heart. She enrolled as a student in 1958, and her life was “transformed,” said her son, philanthropist Jordan Schnitzer. For the rest of her life, she was deeply committed to arts education and the community of artists in and around the Northwest.

In her last years, she wanted to do something to help ensure PNCA’s future success, Schnitzer said.

On the same day the merger of PNCA into Willamette University was finalized, Schnitzer and the university announced a $2 million commitment to support their coming-together. The gift from the late Arlene Schnitzer will create the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer PNCA Dean’s Initiative Fund, providing the new PNCA dean with resources to test new initiatives, facilitate collaboration between the PNCA and Willamette faculties, and more.

This week, Willamette will launch a search to retain a nationally recognized educator and leader in art and design to serve as PNCA’s dean.

“I am so excited about this merger of the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Willamette University,” Schnitzer said. “Willamette is one of the beacons of higher education in our state. To put these two together brings the best of both.”

“I’m proud of my mother and father’s bequest, and I think the best is yet to come.”

PNCA has joined Willamette as an independent college within the university, while maintaining its name, faculty and campus in Portland.

Willamette was the first university in the West to offer arts education of any kind, and PNCA was the first school to offer professional arts education in the Pacific Northwest, said Willamette President Stephen Thorsett. This merger promises to redefine the future of the arts, he said.

“One of the most important things that a dean does is support change, whether the ideas come from the faculty, students or outside partner organizations,” Thorsett said. “This estate gift gives the PNCA dean the resources needed to drive innovation within the school.”

About Willamette University

Our historic campus next to the State Capitol in Salem houses a renowned residential liberal arts college, and our downtown Portland campus houses the flagship Pacific Northwest College of Art. Professional graduate programs in Portland and Salem include the Northwest's oldest law school, Oregon's top-ranked MBA program, MA and MFA programs in the arts, writing and critical studies, and our Computing and Data Science program.

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