Paying it forwardEvelyn Crowell

In 1948, when Evelyn Crowell was 12 years old, her father died. Her uncle, Albert Crowell, Jr., stepped forward to become her guardian and nurtured her into adulthood. Albert Crowell made substantial sacrifices so that Evelyn could attend Portland State College at a time when there were few African American students on campus. He also urged her to save money.

His message resonated and for three decades Evelyn has been a generous supporter of PSU, where she worked as an associate professor and in the library from 1972 until her retirement in 2002.

“Some people aren’t givers,” she says, “but what are they waiting for?”

Crowell has included PSU in her estate to fund scholarships in the College of the Arts. The Evelyn I. Crowell Endowed Opera Scholarship and the Evelyn I. Crowell Endowed Theater & Film Scholarship support two of her greatest passions. She has been a fixture at PSU’s opera and theater productions for many years.

She has also created the Albert Crowell, Jr., Memorial Scholarship to honor the man who took her in nearly 70 years ago. The scholarship is awarded to students with a deep understanding and appreciation of African American culture and experience.

The scholarships have provided thousands of dollars to PSU students who may otherwise be unable to afford a college degree.

“This scholarship is the saving grace to my education,” says Kanda Mbenda-Ngoma, who received the Albert Crowell, Jr., Memorial Scholarship for the 2014-2015 school year. “Without it, I would not be able to attend PSU.”

CROWELL WAS BORN in Saginaw, Michigan, and moved to Portland in 1942. She went to Boise Elementary and Girls Polytechnic High School before enrolling at Portland State College in 1954. She earned her undergraduate degree in 1959 with the help of a four-year scholarship from the Women’s Christian Service of the Methodist Church.

She earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Washington and worked at Linfield College and Fisk University before starting her career at PSU. 

Crowell has also been a generous supporter of Portland Community College, and served on the Portland School Board and the Oregon State Library Board of Trustees. 

For many years, she took her uncle’s financial advice to heart. But she also traveled the world and raised two kids. Her support for PSU is a reflection of her own financial philosophy.

“If you don’t do something with money,” she says, “it just gets away from you.”

Written by Steve Beaven, development writer in the PSU Foundation.