Thrashers invest in access to education

Marta ’90 and Ken Thrasher endorse Portland State’s mission of access. They recognize the power of education to advance lives and demonstrate their commitment with generous gifts to scholarships.

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“It’s all about the students for us,” Ken says. “Marta and I really believe in the educational system. It has a triple payback—it promotes individual success, prepares the workforce and reduces social costs. It is a decider in terms of the future of young people.”

Former PSU Foundation trustee Ken Thrasher and his wife Marta attend a Graduate School of Education reception for scholarship donors and recipients.

Education certainly made a difference for Ken, who grew up in a single-parent household. A high school teacher recognized his abilities and encouraged him to pursue college and a career in accounting. During high school, he also worked for prominent Portland businessman, Bill Naito, who was an influential mentor.“He told me I could go to college. He set high expectations, and he made it clear to me that education is important,” says Ken.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oregon State University, Ken worked his way up through financial positions at Mayflower Farms and Darigold. He eventually became president and chief executive officer of the Fred Meyer division of The Kroger Company and then chief executive officer and chairman of Compli. Now retired, Ken continues to serve on seven nonprofit and four corporate boards.

Marta raised their two sons, earned her bachelor’s degree in history from PSU in 1990, and completed the Graduate Teacher Education Program in the Graduate School of Education in 1993. She and Ken have funded over 100 scholarships for PSU students over the years and enjoy meeting the students who have received their awards.

“These students have done so much with their lives. Talking with them is a real benefit for us,” says Ken.

The couple recently made a significant planned gift to scholarships as part of Ken’s role as leadership gifts committee co-chair of PSU’s Creating Futures scholarship campaign. This gift will endow the Marta and Ken Thrasher Scholarships in both the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Work. In addition, the Thrashers will continue their ongoing support of scholarships.

“After providing for our children and grandchildren, we wanted the balance of our estate to go to charity,” says Marta. “We believe in the mission of PSU. We care about students getting a quality education. We focus our gifts on students pursuing careers in education and social work, because these careers don’t make a lot of money in the early years and it’s important for students to graduate without much debt.”

When realized, the Thrashers’ planned endowment gift will provide scholarships for approximately 10 students annually, in perpetuity, and ensures that the scholarships they care about and have supported for years will continue into the future.

“We have been connected with PSU for a long time, because PSU is a place of access for students, especially for students with need,” says Ken. “Opportunity and access is so important. The way state funding is going, if you don’t create access through scholarships, many students will lose their opportunity for higher education.”

You can join the Thrashers in supporting students who are pursuing a career in education. To discuss options for establishing or supporting a Graduate School of Education scholarship, please contact Jaymee Jacoby, GSE Director of Development, at 503-725-4789 or jjacoby@pdx.edu.

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