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Nancy Ryles' legacy lives on 25 years later

Her scholarship fund continues to help educate Oregon women

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Michelle deParrie, a Nancy Ryles Scholarship honoree, graduated in 2014 with a degree from the Child and Family Studies program at PSU's School of Social Work.It’s been almost a quarter century since Beaverton’s Nancy Ryles passed away, but her efforts to help uplift and educate Oregon’s youth continue.

Ryles served in the Oregon House of Representatives, the Oregon Senate and as one of three members of the state’s Public Utility Commission. Further, she was known as an advocate for education and for equality for women and minorities.

This year, The Nancy Ryles Scholarship Fund celebrates its 25th anniversary.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Nancy Ryles

Following Ryles’ death in 1990 — she was just 52 — from a fast-growing brain tumor, The Friends of Nancy Ryles began raising funds to establish a scholarship endowment in her name at Portland State University.

According to information provided this fall by The Friends of Nancy Ryles “It was Nancy’s idea that the scholarship proposed be established at PSU to assist women whose education had been interrupted due to financial need, family responsibilities, or personal disabilities and who wanted the chance to go back to school.”

The Nancy Ryles Scholarship Fund, which now boasts nearly 40 graduates, is — according to the press release — “a fitting tribute to Nancy who, in both her private and public life, worked to support and encourage educational opportunity for all children. In particular, she was an advocate for the advancement of women in administrative roles that influence the delivery of educational services to women and girls.”

Ryles, who since her death has also had a Beaverton elementary school named after her, was elected twice to the Beaverton School Board, served on the Education Committees in both houses and was appointed to the Oregon Education Commission. In 1981, Ryles introduced the bill that made kindergarten mandatory throughout Oregon.

The outpouring of gifts in response to Ryles’ death was generous and has been continuous. In March of 1991, the fundraising effort hit $140,000, and the endowment was set up with the PSU Foundation.

Despite lean years during economic downturns, the endowment now produces available earnings of over $30,000 each year. Annual gifts, bequests, and an occasional fundraiser continue to enrich the endowment.

“Support for Ryles Scholars goes beyond a tuition check,” adds the release. “From the beginning, we have worked to provide moral support and encouragement to each scholar and to build a sense of belonging for the group as a whole, celebrating everyone’s achievements and understanding setbacks.”

Steering Committee Members for scholarship include Martha DeLong, Leslie Emery and Sharon Van Buren. Founders include Emery, Joan Johnson, Jean Morton, and Communications Coordinator Nancy Kurkinen.

“What began as a labor of love for my friends Joan Johnson, Jean Morton and me is now a legacy that I am honored to have established,” Emery wrote. “I look forward each year to attending our annual Ryles Scholars Dinner and reconnecting with everyone involved.”

Donors may give online directly to the Nancy Ryles Fund at portlandstate-foundation.org/nancy-ryles-scholarship.