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Past Donor Spotlights

The Portland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League

JACL receiptIn August 2012, the Portland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) made a significant donation to the University Library’s Special Collections. In addition to the documents that make up the JACL historical records project donated to the University Library last year, the JACL made a $5,000 donation that matched the Oregon Cultural Trust’s award supporting the Library’s JACL collection. The University Library’s Special Collections is the steward of over 23 boxes of historically important records from the Portland JACL. Combined funding from the Portland JACL and OCT will be used to identify, organize, and preserve these aging and often fragile materials and launch an online searchable finding aid that will be made available to the public, including researchers, educators, students, and community members.

The Japanese American Citizens League is the country’s oldest Asian American organization dedicated to preserving civil rights in the United States. Led by Co-Presidents Susan Leedham and Jean Yamamoto, the Portland chapter’s records cover a pivotal period in national and local history from the 1930s to the 1980s. The JACL is a membership-driven national organization, founded in 1928, whose mission is to secure and uphold the human and civil rights of Americans of Japanese ancestry and others and to promote and preserve the cultural heritage and values of Japanese Americans.

The Portland JACL collection at the University Library features unique items such as the original receipt from the Chapter’s purchase of a flag set from Meier & Frank for $1.75, dated December 8, 1941. The collection also includes scrapbooks, photographs, programs, minutes from meetings, and many more important documents dating from before WWII to the 1980s. The JACL collection is currently available to students and patrons and with the help of the Portland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Oregon Cultural Trust, efforts are now underway, insuring that these historically important documents will continue to be available in the future.

A receipt for an American flag set, purchased by the
Portland JACL on December 8, 1941 from the Meier
and Frank department store.

A receipt for an American flag set, purchased by the Portland JACL on December 8, 1941 from the Meier and Frank department store is pictured.

To learn more about the work of the Portland JACL and how you can support its mission,


Robin and Robert Holmes

The Holmeses

Access to art history text books—because of their color plates and high quality printing—can represent a significant obstacle for a college student with limited means. The cost may even be enough to deter some students from studying art at all.

For art lover Robin Holmes, that would be inconsistent with the concept of a broad university education. That’s why she and her husband Robert gave $6,000 to Portland State’s University Library to purchase art texts that students can borrow rather than buy. She hopes the gift will not only help art history majors, but especially non-majors who want to branch out into new interests.

“You could be studying to be an engineer, but it’s also important to experience art for its own sake,” said Robin, who earned her master’s degree in English from PSU in 1973 and has currently been taking art history classes at PSU.

Robin and Robert have given in other ways too. They’ve contributed to flexible endowments that support travel and training future educators of the fine arts.

The couple, whose vacation travels often take them to museums, ballets, and opera houses around the world, believes everyone should have art in their lives, and that Portland State is uniquely suited to help them.

“We’re focusing on PSU because we believe in the concept of an urban university, and we believe in PSU’s ability to provide education in a wide variety of fields,” Robin said.

 “I believe the broader your education—and that includes an education in the arts—the more able you are to solve problems, whatever your profession,” Robert Holmes explains.


Barbara Roberts

In the Library world we often find that people are either “savers” or "spring cleaners". Some people purge their file cabinets regularly, while others save every note and file.  Our Special Collections and University Archives depend on donations from generous "savers" to keep history alive and accessible to our current and future students, faculty and greater Northwest community. 

Governor Barbara Roberts is one of those “savers” who generously donated her collection to the University Library as part of the Center for Women, Politics & Policy’s Oregon Political Women’s Archive.   The Center for Women, Politics & Policy (CWPP) has created this archive in collaboration with the Library, PSU History Department, and the Black Studies Department.  Her collection includes personal papers, newspaper clippings, campaign materials, memorabilia, photographs, and public speeches from over 30 years of public life. 

Barbara Roberts was elected the first woman Governor of the state of Oregon in 1990, serving from 1991 through 1995. During her term as Governor, Roberts worked with the Clinton administration to secure federal waivers and funding for the Oregon Health Plan. She also helped to increase the number of children in the Head Start program, secured financing for additional units of affordable housing, and developed programs to help move Oregonians from welfare to the workplace. Prior to her tenure as Governor, Barbara Roberts was a member of the Oregon House and was Oregon's first female House Majority Leader from 1983 to 1984. She was elected the first democratic female Secretary of State in 1984 and and the first Democrat elected to the office in 110 years.  She was reelected to that position in 1988.  Roberts served in many capacities in the Hatfield School of Government at PSU, and was the founding board chair of the NEW Leadership Oregon™ program.  This program has grown to include teaching and research, which launched the Center for Women, Politics & Policy in 2009.

Gov. Roberts carried the boxes of her collection with her on every move, 89 boxes total. She called them, “the boxes of my life.” After she laid out all the boxes she quickly realized she had a rich, extensive collection and that it needed to be preserved and shared. 

All 89 boxes are stored on-site at the University Library and prove invaluable to researchers and students.  CWPP’s student learning and faculty scholarship aims to expand the understanding of women's roles in the worlds of politics and policy with the goal of developing the next generation of women leaders who will serve the city, state, region and nation.  Gov. Roberts’s collection is heavily used and serves to greatly enhance what is already known about this great public figure.

For the last five and a half years, Gov. Roberts has been working on her second book Up the Capitol Steps, an autobiography to be published this fall.  This book details much more of her personal life and work as Governor – topics she found challenging and at times emotional to write.  But, the end result is a truly inspiring account of her path from a small town girl to Governor of Oregon.  Gov. Roberts was one of the first 10 women to be elected in her own right to the position of Governor in the United States and hers will be the second gubernatorial memoir published from this elite group of groundbreaking women.

Roberts became involved in public service as an advocate for handicapped children. She became an unpaid lobbyist in 1969, spurred by concerns for her autistic son, Mike Sanders.  Mike and Barbara recently visited the Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room to identify images from her collection to use in the book.

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