PORTLAND — Arlene Schnitzer, a philanthropist who gave away more than $150 million to thousands of civic projects in Portland and helped bring arts in the city to another level, has died. She was 91.
Her son, Jordan Schnitzer, said she died on Saturday after having some intestinal issues.
“In the end, at 91, I think she just decided she’d had a pretty amazing life,” Jordan Schnitzer told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is named after her. She and her husband, Harold Schnitzer, who died in 2011 at age 87, helped establish the Center for Northwest Art, and a curatorial and awards program.
“Both my parents were proud Portlanders,” Jordan Schnitzer said. “They were born and educated here. It was their village, they used to say. They felt if they didn’t help build the institutions in this town, who would?
Bruce Guenther, former chief curator of the Portland Art Museum, said the Schnitzers transformed philanthropy by making large donations, and that other wealthy patrons begin doing so also.
Harold and Arlene Schnitzer donated to a variety of causes. Recipients included New Avenues for Youth, community gathering places such as the Oregon Zoo, schools such as the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark College, Jewish cultural agencies such as the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, and arts institutions from the Oregon Symphony and Oregon Ballet Theatre to the Portland Opera and Portland Art Museum.
The couple’s main way of donating was through the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, funded by the sale of the Claremont Hotel for $88 million.
“I think of her as a big wave,” said Lucinda Parker, a painter who met Arlene when they were both art students in the 1950s. “She encouraged and embarrassed everyone to do what she was doing. She made her way. She had no fear.”
Harold and Arlene Schnitzer met in 1949 and were married five weeks later after Arlene proposed.