Portland, Ore. – Long-time Portland Philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer has passed away at the age of 91. Many are paying their respects and honoring her including OHSU, PSU, and the Portland Art Museum.
Portland Art Museum- The Portland Art Museum shares with great sadness the passing of longtime Museum Life Trustee, Arlene Schnitzer.
Arlene Schnitzer, with her husband, Harold, provided unprecedented leadership and contributions at pivotal moments in the Museum’s history. Their visionary leadership on the Board of Trustees made it possible for the Museum to grow and better serve the Portland community. Arlene’s passion for ensuring that everyone had access to art inspired all of those around her. She and Harold led the Museum through the 1996 and 2000 renovations and expansions of the Main Building and the prescient acquisition of the former Masonic Temple.
Earlier this year, Arlene gave a historic $10 million gift to the Museum’s Connection Campaign, representing the largest contribution from an individual donor in the 127-year history of the institution.
“Arlene believed deeply in the transformational power of art, artists, and art institutions. She often said that the arts defined our lives and that she could not imagine Portland or Oregon without them,” said Portland Art Museum Director Brian Ferriso. “Personally, I am forever grateful for Arlene’s steadfast faith in our beloved Museum and me. I know that many, many generations of Oregonians will benefit from her vision.”
Arlene Schnitzer’s relationship with the Portland Art Museum began when she enrolled as a student at the Museum Art School. She and her late husband, Harold Schnitzer (1923–2011), along with their son, Jordan, have been close partners of the Museum for almost half a century. Their passion for art, and our city, led to leadership roles at the Museum.
The Schnitzers provided financial support for important acquisitions, exhibitions, and capital campaigns, and they donated their Chinese Han Dynasty collection and other works to the Museum’s collection. They also made significant investments in furthering the scholarship of the curatorial team through endowments of Northwest and Asian art, whose curatorial positions are named in their honor. The Schnitzers’ vision and generosity led to the creation of the Museum’s Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Northwest Art, celebrating the creative vitality of the region.
In recognition of their incredible commitment and contributions, in 2007 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer were named the first ever Life Trustees of the Museum. In 2014, the Museum showcased Arlene and Harold’s distinguished collection with the exhibition and publication In Passionate Pursuit: The Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Collection and Legacy. That exhibition displayed artwork by many of the Northwest artists whose careers Mrs. Schnitzer nurtured through her Fountain Gallery, including Robert Colescott, the focus of the special exhibition Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott. When she attended the opening of this exhibition on February 15, she was the last person to leave the Museum that evening after seeing the art and sharing joyful stories of her time working with the artist. Arlene’s legacy and impact on the arts in Portland and throughout the Northwest are undeniable.
“I am so proud of my mother, Arlene, and my late father, Harold,” Jordan Schnitzer said of his mother’s historic gift to the Museum in January. “While their financial contributions have been important, I believe their leadership and lifelong effort to enlist many others to support the arts is their greatest legacy.”
When asked about what drives her philanthropy, Arlene herself said, “Enough is never enough giving back. And Harold felt it as strongly as I do. And that’s it.”
The Museum and larger art community grieves with Jordan and the family.
All of us at OHSU were saddened to learn of the passing of Arlene Schnitzer. Arlene’s contributions to our state and our community were profound; her name is synonymous with civic dedication. Among Arlene’s many passions were improving women’s health and providing world-class care to those living with diabetes. Her inspiring leadership and sustained generosity have helped the OHSU Center for Women’s Health and the OHSU Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center become models of care delivery in our country. We are grateful OHSU patients will be among the thousands who will benefit from Arlene’s legacy for years to come. We extend our deep sympathy to Arlene’s son, Jordan, and the entire Schnitzer family on the loss of this truly irreplaceable woman. — Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, OHSU President — Matt McNair, OHSU Foundation President
PSU: Portland State University mourns the passing of Arlene Shnitzer
Portland State University leaders were saddened to hear of the passing of Arlene Schnitzer on Saturday. The generosity of Schnitzer, her husband Harold and her son Jordan has been important to the arts programs at Portland State and across Portland.
“Arlene Schnitzer’s name is synonymous with advancing the arts in Portland and it’s true for Portland State as well,” said PSU Interim President Stephen Percy. “The results of her generosity and that of her family will be forever treasured at PSU. We wish her family peace and comfort as they memorialize Arlene’s extraordinary life.”
In 2013, the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation funded the creation of the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize at the PSU College of the Arts. The annual juried prize honors the work of exceptional students in the School of Art + Design. The prize was launched to help raise awareness of the high quality of the visual arts programs at Portland State University and to honor Arlene Schnitzer’s leadership in the arts.
Arlene Schnitzer personally supported construction of the glass tower for PSU’s Lincoln Hall, the home of the university’s music, theater and film programs. The tower, which honors Arlene’s late husband, Harold Schnitzer, was completed in 2014 and includes instructional studios, an art gallery and a black box theater.
Last year, Arlene attended the gala opening of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University in Fariborz Maseeh Hall on Southwest Broadway Avenue. The museum aligns with Jordan’s vision of “art for all” and its galleries feature works by Northwest artists, faculty and students as well as exhibitions by national and international artists. With a $5 million gift to establish the museum, Jordan has continued a powerful legacy left by his mother and father, whose gifts funded projects on campus in excess of $4.5 million dollars.
“Arlene Schnitzer’s impact on the College of the Arts cannot be overstated,” said Leroy Bynum, dean of PSU’s College of the Arts. “Her dedication to and generous support of arts education at Portland State has left an indelible imprint on the minds and hearts of countless students and faculty. She was a treasured champion of the arts at PSU and throughout Oregon.