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In Memoriam: Arlene Schnitzer (1929 – 2020)

The Washington State University community is remembering philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer, who died peacefully at age 91 on April 4, 2020. Ms. Schnitzer was a generous donor to the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU, which included a gift to establish the Bruce/Floyd Gallery. A tree will be planted outside the museum to honor her extraordinary contribution to the arts at WSU and around the world.

Ms. Schnitzer’s philanthropic spirit was shared by her late husband, Harold – a noted businessman and prominent benefactor – as well as her son, Jordan D. Schnitzer. In 2013, a multimillion gift from Jordan Schnitzer paved the way for the treasured museum as it stands now.

Recently, her son shared remarks she made at a Portland Art Museum event, which sum up her philosophy of giving back. “I want to inspire other people and other families to do things for their community. If you don’t do it, and I don’t do it, who is going to do it?” she said. “You owe something…. you can’t just take in the fresh air. You have to be responsible. There’s only one way to show it. You either ‘put up or shut up’…you have to show a community you care about it!”

Stemming from Ms. Schnitzer’s earlier years as a student artist, gallery owner and collector, her support for the arts elevated the cultural landscape in Oregon and in Palm Springs, California, where she also resided. Earlier this year, she gave a $10 million donation to the Portland Art Museum – the largest gift from an individual donor in its history. Her longstanding commitment to the Portland Center for the Arts led to the dedication of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, affectionately known to locals as “the Schnitz.”

“Arlene Schnitzer believed passionately in the power of art, artists, and art institutions to nourish and sustain communities,” said Robin Held, former Executive Director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU. “Her living legacy of philanthropic generosity transformed arts access in the Pacific Northwest. This transformation continues and grows through the arts philanthropy of her son Jordan and the family foundation. I wish her family peace and comfort. May her memory be uplifting.”

While the Schnitzer family is synonymous with the arts, Ms. Schnitzer was a leader on a wide variety of advisory committees and boards, including the Oregon Symphony and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland. Ms. Schnitzer often shared her philosophy that art, education and health should be accessible to all members of society, not just the elite, and she regularly encouraged her family and friends to serve the communities in which they live.

“All of us at WSU are deeply saddened to learn of Arlene’s passing,” said Lisa Calvert, CEO of the Washington State University Foundation. “Her civic engagement, her passion for arts and culture, and her devotion to her family were extraordinary. She truly made our part of the world a more beautiful place.”


To read more about her life and legacy, please click here or below:



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Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU
1535 NE Wilson Road
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164

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