Portland (Oregon)

I flew to Portland with a NU Foundation colleague in early June to meet with an alum/donor. I had not met him before even though he has supported us over two gift cycles. He visited Omaha two years ago, but I was traveling elsewhere. As a side note, he followed up our Portland meeting just a few weeks later with a trip to Omaha. I was able to give his daughter, one of his colleagues, and him a tour of Mammel Hall. I also took them to dinner.

While our 2017 train trip out west took us through Portland, I hadn’t spent any real time there since 1974. As part of a job I had as a project supervisor, I was assigned to Portland. This was only my second “real job” as a social scientist, and I was most excited to be part of a national-level study. Our project involved assessing the quality of dental services available to young men who were in the Job Corps (Portland). The Job Corps is a program administered by the Department of Labor and offers free education and vocational training to young men and women 16 to 24 years of age. My specific assignment involved supervising a group of interviewers who were questioning program participants about the support services they were receiving. My bosses were two university professors, one from the University of Maryland and the other from North Carolina Central University.

The experience was fraught with trouble from the outset. It was clear that the local Job Corps administrators did not want us there, and they tried to undermine our work. There were two very unpleasant exchanges, and at one point I thought we would be told to leave. From their perspective, we were the kind of people who could make them look bad. Imagine if we had found that their participants reported that the dentists were doing a lousy job. They were safe though. For the most part, the dentists, and the program administrator, came out looking pretty good. So much drama, and so little reason for it all. I was happy to leave town.

This trip was much better. In addition to meeting with the alumnus who had supported us and who had a very interesting story behind his business success, we toured Portland and its outlands, including the botanical gardens at Washington Park. Perhaps best of all was the artwork and architecture we observed. Portland has a great mix of modern features well integrated with traditional early and mid-twentieth century structures. And, then there was Mt. Hood off in the distance….

We also with another alum at who works at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. There are apparently 15,000 Nike employees in the Beaverton location, spread out over 286 acres and 75 buildings. The grounds and architecture are stunning. Yes, I would work there. Soon after we arrived, we were able to walk through a covered walkway out to a pavilion where hundreds of Nike employees were watching and partying as the U.S. thrashed Thailand, 13-0, in the first round of the Women’s World Cup. Brandy Chastain was in attendance, and quite popular, and stayed around after the match for conversation, photos, and autographs. The food and drink were excellent, as well. Our alum was late in catching up with us, but we did not mind the delay. She was caught up in a meeting. She finally shook free, but rather than go to an office or other location inside we met outside at a table on the pavilion. She told us that she loved working there, although her path to initial employment was non-linear.

Nike World Headquarters is part office, part museum, and certainly dedicated to the athletes who have donned their shoes and apparel. It’s not hard to miss Steve Prefontaine Hall and the Michael Jordan Building. The Serena Williams building was under construction. There is also a Japanese garden, plaques galore, Marcus Mariota’s 2014 Heisman Trophy, the waffle iron Bill Bowerman used to make the first pair of Nike shoes, and the van that Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight used to sell shoes out of when the company was first started. Amazing. We need to go back for another visit.

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