Dr. Sonnen was hired as the chair of the PSU Special and Counselor Education Department in 1978, after a successful career in Portland, Lake Oswego, and North Clackamas school districts. He served as chair of the department for 11 years. Following his retirement, Dr. Sonnen was awarded the status of professor emeritus at PSU.
Richard “Dick” Sonnen’s noteworthy pubic school teaching and administrative experiences were instrumental in his selection and success as a PSU Department Chair. In addition to having an important impact at PSU, Dr. Sonnen was also recognized throughout the state as a unifying presence who worked effectively with numerous agencies and institutions in advancing services for individuals with disabilities. Sonnen’s leadership at Portland State also coincided with extensive growth and new frontiers emerging in higher education. Dr. Sonnen successfully met these challenges. His dedication, collaborative spirit, insightfulness, sense of humor, and humility helped significantly advance School of Education programs in Special and Counselor Education.”
—Steve Brannan and Dave Krug,
GSE Retired Emeritus Faculty
Dr. Sonnen spent his entire career working in the field of special education. He received his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) in 1958, his master’s of education from the University of Oregon in 1965, and doctorate in administration of special education and general education in 1971.
Dr. Sonnen was dedicated to preparing and supporting educators to serve individuals with special needs. He worked as a state consultant at the Oregon Board of Education. He also served as an instructor at Bowling Green State University, Ohio (1969) and University of Oregon (1970), and served on the board of directors for the Providence Child Center and United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon.
A service will be held Friday, April 11, at 11am, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 8701 NE 119th Street, Vancouver, WA, with lunch to follow. A Celebration of Dick’s Life is planned for Saturday, April 12, from 2-4pm at Bill’s Chicken and Steak House, 2200 St. Johns Blvd., Vancouver, WA.
The Sonnen family wishes to continue Dick’s legacy through the Richard J. Sonnen Memorial Scholarship, which they have established to support GSE students working toward graduate degrees in special education. Gifts in memory of Dick may be made to this scholarship.
PSU Graduate School of Education
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207
Make check payable to PSU Foundation, and in the memo line write Richard J. Sonnen Memorial Scholarship.
Enter gift amount in the “other” field, and in “gift notes” type Richard J. Sonnen Memorial Scholarship, then complete the rest of the gift process.