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Stars line up for Margaret Carter

Story by James Hill. Photos by James Hill and Jerry Hart.

President Pulliams and Senator Carter

U.S. Senator Gordon Smith - Senator Margaret Carter and PCC District President Pulliams

From U.S. Senator Gordon Smith to Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, political stars lined up to honor a longtime constituent and PCC champion.

In October, the college honored state Sen. Margaret Carter by naming a program in her honor at the Cascade Campus. The Skill Center will now be called the Margaret Carter Skill Center. The program takes a hands-on approach to learning and applied skill training. Programs include classes in life-skill education, technology and computer literacy, employment exploration concepts and applied office techniques, communications and trades math.

Carter, a longtime Oregon lawmaker and senate president pro tempore, served as a counselor and faculty member at PCC Cascade and helped create the Skill Center, which has helped thousands of residents of North and Northeast Portland make their way into the workforce. During her speech, Sen. Carter made it clear to the gathered legislators how important the center is to her neighborhood.

“Legislators, when you help me with the Skill Center you help the community,” Sen. Carter said. “I want everyone who is breathing, and has legs and can work to work. When you help me with the Skill Center you help those folks get back to work.”

Speakers for the event included U.S. Sen. Smith and State Sen. Courtney, who were at their comic best in delivering their thoughts about the guest of honor. Sen. Smith has been a supporter of the Skill Center, both as an Oregon legislator and as a member of the state’s congressional delegation.

“The greatest honor that you can receive in public life is to have a public program or public building named after you,” said U.S. Senator Gordon Smith. “I have to confess that I have envy at Margaret having such a program named after her. There is only one thing in the state of Oregon named after me. After I was elected to the U.S. Senate, the city of Pendleton got some private donors together and put a little drinking fountain on Main Street.”

Senator Gordon Smith

Sen. Smith went on to disclose that at the last Pendleton Round-Up cowboys weren’t using it for drinking purposes, but something entirely inappropriate. The story elicited plenty of chuckles from the crowd. Things turned more serious when Sen. Smith talked about his time in the state legislature as senate president when the Skill Center was to have its funding cut in 1995. Sen. Carter had asked Smith to visit the center.

“When Margaret Carter asks you to do something I advise you to say ‘yes,'” said Sen. Smith. “I was deeply impressed (by the Skill Center). She said that these kids don’t want a hand out but a hand up. I took the phrase and I found a way as senate president to fix her problem with the budget.”

Sen. Courtney got plenty of hearty laughs, many coming from Sen. Carter herself who chuckled on stage with every punch line.

“She is a Capricorn and the number one thing about a Capricorn is that they are very, very stubborn,” he said with a wry smile. “She is a member of the silent generation, which makes no sense at all because she is not silent. She is one of the few (officials) ever to be elected to the senate as a nominee of both the Democratic and Republican parties in her district. If I ever need somebody to cross party lines, I send Margaret.”

Carter serves District 22 in North Portland. She was first elected to the Oregon House in 1985 and moved to the Senate in 2001, winning re-election in 2005. She has played a pivotal role in the creation and long-term support of the Skill Center through her efforts on the House Education Committee, the Joint Trade and Economic Development Committee, the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, and in her leadership position in the Senate.

Earlier this year, Carter was named national president of NOBEL Women, the National Organization for Black Elected Legislative Women.

“It is difficult to imagine what Portland Community College would be like had we not had this long, wonderful relationship with Sen. Carter,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “The senator has been an advocate and an ally, as well as part of the PCC family. She is one of the great champions of PCC’s essential mission: to provide access to anyone who wants a college education.”

Cascade Campus President Algie Gatewood said much of the success for the Skill Center is a direct result of Carter’s efforts, both as an academic and a lawmaker.

“She has always been there for these students, for this faculty and staff, for the neighborhood, for Portland and for Oregonians,” he said. “This is an honor for a program dedicated to help people gain meaningful employment. So often programs such as this one go unnoticed when in reality they play a vital role in workforce and economic development, and change the lives of so many people that otherwise would have been left out.”

For more information about the Skill Center, call (503) 978-5450.