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PCC names its 2009 Distinguished Patrons

Story by James Hill and photos by Vern Uyetake.

The Portland Community College Board of Directors has awarded Mary Holmstrom and Barbara Raz its 2009 Distinguished Patron Award.

In 2007, the Board established the Portland Community College Distinguished Patron Award to recognize extraordinary levels of service to the college. Past awardees include Norma Jean and Henry Germond in 2008 and Doreen Margolin in 2007. This year’s duo has been integral volunteers to some of PCC’s most influential events and programs.

Mary Holmstrom

Barbara Raz – Mary Holmstrom

In 1991, Northwest Portland’s Mary Holmstrom, a former instructor at PCC, co-founded the Cascade Festival of African Films, which has blossomed into one of the largest African film festivals in the U.S. A native of South Africa, Holmstrom saw a critical need and opportunity to show films that portrayed African culture from its own perspective rather than from a Hollywood point of view. Twenty years later, the month-long North Portland festival attracts more than 5,000 attendees annually and regularly brings in influential African directors.

“I was very surprised but deeply honored to receive the Patron Award,” Holmstrom said. “The award is by no mean mine alone. It belongs to everyone who has worked on the Cascade Festival of African Films over the 19 years of its existence. I am pleased that this award will bring well-deserved attention to the festival and that the gift I made to establish the CFAF Endowment Fund will help ensure another 20 years of the festival.”

Holmstrom began her teaching career at the college in 1983 when she taught writing and English literature at the Rock Creek Campus. After leaving the college for a few years, she returned to teach humanities and African literature at the Cascade Campus. It was this time she joined efforts with fellow faculty Michael Dembrow, Linda Elegant and Joseph Smith-Buani to establish the film festival. This year, Holmstrom and her husband Bob made the first gift to establish an endowment for the festival to insure its future.

“Thanks to their historic gift, a major step has been taken to ensure that the festival will continue into the future,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams.

Barbara Raz

Barbara Raz, a resident of Southwest Portland, retired from the college’s Computer Information Systems faculty in 1998 after working at PCC since the early 1970s. In 2003, she joined the PCC Foundation Board and, under her leadership, the Foundation’s Development Committee has increased annual giving by 30 percent the last two years. This included reaching the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation match that resulted in an additional $320,000 in scholarship funds.

“I am very much honored to receive this award but I am also quite humbled,” Raz said. “I know that it takes a whole community to raise money for the scholarships and educational programs that the PCC Foundation sustains. The award is recognition of the community that has worked hard to raise funds for the Foundation and the students who will win the scholarship awards.”

As a Foundation donor for more than two decades, Raz established an endowed scholarship and has included PCC in her estate plans.

“As a PCC faculty member, PCC Foundation Board leader and donor, Barbara has improved the educational programs of the college and helped hundreds of students achieve their goals,” Pulliams added.