Bob HormelRaised in Southeast Portland, Bob Hormel, ’62, was an only child in a financially struggling, working-class family. He swept the halls of Woodstock Elementary to earn school lunches and worked as a go-fer for a trucking company while attending Cleveland High School.

“My parents never had two nickels to rub together, and I knew I wanted a better life,” Hormel recalls. “No one in my family had been to college, but all my friends from high school were headed to different universities. So I enrolled at PSU.”

Originally in the engineering program, Hormel switched majors during his third year after taking an accounting class.

“I really understood accounting,” Hormel says. “I no longer enjoyed engineering and felt like accounting saved me. I even met my future wife in a PSU accounting class.”

After college, Hormel went into the Coast Guard. He was in boot camp during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and on active duty for six months before shifting to the reserves. He then worked at a local accounting firm and got married. Eager to travel, the young couple saved their money, then flew overseas and bought a Volkswagen bus in Europe.

“I’d never had a vacation because my parents couldn’t afford it, so travel was awe-inspiring for me,” he notes. “In 1964, all the big cities had trailer-court campgrounds so we stayed in our bus. We were free spirits and toured Europe for six months.”

The couple eventually shipped their Volkswagen to New York and drove back to Portland. They began working again and had two children. Hormel started his own company so he could arrange to spend more time with his family. He grew his successful firm, Robert E. Hormel, CPA, P.C., to four employees and then sold it, retiring at age 55. Later, a former client convinced Hormel to work for him part-time, and he stayed there for 15 years.

Learning to navigate the stock market helped Hormel accumulate wealth. He wanted to find a meaningful way to give back, so he recently made a $1 million estate gift commitment to Portland State aimed at providing scholarships for accounting students who have dependent children living at home. 

“I don’t think I would’ve gone to college if it hadn’t been for PSU,” he says. “It was hard to work the whole time I went to school, and I know a single parent has it even tougher than I did.”

Hormel’s gift is established through his estate, but he has decided to start fulfilling his commitment now by giving $100,000 each year for the next 10 years. The scholarship awards will support five to seven students per year to help fund tuition, fees and books with a surplus to go toward child care or other child-related expenses.

“The gift is for students in the final two years of their accounting degree,” Hormel says. “Rather than leaving this in my will, I took action now because I’m excited to see the results.”