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Lewis & Clarks future gets rosier

Gift of $6.5 million will help offset losses resulting from loan

Robert Pamplin Jr. said he and his father gave Lewis & Clark College $6.5 million this week in part because they were concerned with how the controversy surrounding a $10.5 million college loan was affecting the college's fund raising and confidence in its board of trustees.

'We did not want to see Lewis & Clark, as an institution, harmed,' said Pamplin, a Lewis & Clark graduate and a former chairman of the Portland college's board of trustees. 'Because the institution is very important to alumni, staff and faculty, and we wanted to preserve that give them trust and stability.'

Pamplin, who owns the Portland Tribune, said he believed that fund raising for the private liberal arts college had been affected by reaction to the loan given to a now bankrupt Idaho company that defaulted on the loan. It's not clear how much if any of the $10.5 million will be recovered by the college.

Interim president hired

Former Lewis & Clark President Michael Mooney, who made the loan from college funds in March 2001 without approval from the board of trustees, resigned last month after details of the loan became public.

The amount of the loan represents about 11 percent of the college's general fund and about 9 percent of its endowment.

Lewis & Clark alumni and past contributors have said in recent weeks that they would reconsider future giving to the college because of the loan.

But Fred Fields, chairman of the college's board of trustees, said through a spokeswoman on Thursday that 'it's really too soon to tell' whether fund raising was being affected by the loan.

Pamplin said his family's gift along with other donations and assets the college is able to recover from the Idaho company is intended to replace the entire $10.5 million.

Fields said trustees hope that the gift, other fund raising and the appointment on Wednesday of former Reed College President Paul Bragdon as interim Lewis & Clark president 'will ease anyone's concerns.'

'I think a major task is just to rebuild confidence in the college and its board of trustees,' Bragdon said Thursday. The loan episode, he said, 'has come as a shock (to alumni) and does raise questions.'

He said his job will be to talk to faculty, students, staff and alumni 'to assure them about the continuing worth of the place as an educational institution.'

Gifts add up

Pamplin said he was 'kind of dismayed' when he learned of the loan and the probable loss of the money. He said he wasn't sure at first whether it was akin to a house burning down 'because of arson' or 'because of a lightning fire.'

In the end, the loss was 'probably Smokey the Bear, asleep at the switch,' he said.

Pamplin initially gave his support to Mooney after the loan was revealed. But this week he said he thinks that Mooney's eventual resignation 'was based on the fact that he didn't want to harm the college. And I think that's very genuine and very gracious.'

Pamplin, who estimated that his family has given the college $30 million over the last three decades, said Fields informed him of the $10.5 million loan after the board learned of it 'long after É it happened.'

Some Lewis & Clark alumni and others have criticized the board of trustees for not revealing the loan and its problems until several months after they learned of it when Willamette Week reported on the loan.

Contact Todd Murphy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..