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Just like namesake Nancy Ryles, scholarship supports women and education


At a meeting with Portland State University officials, the founders of a proposed endowment fund walked in with nothing but a desire to honor their longtime friend.

Twenty years later the Nancy Ryles Endowed Scholarship at Portland State University is thriving, despite the economic downturn, and has now provided the equivalent of 52 school years of education.

Nancy Ryles was an important figure in local politics. She originally served on the Beaverton School Board in the 1970s and then went on to serve two terms in the Oregon House and was later elected to the Senate. In 1987, she resigned her senate seat to become the first woman appointed to the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

When Joan Johnson, Leslie Emery and Jean Morton learned that Ryles, a friend, had been diagnosed with brain cancer and only had months to live, they began the first steps in creating a scholarship for women who had never been to college to begin school at PSU. Ryles’ history of service to her community as a state legislator focused on education and school finance served as an inspiration to her friends.

“We made an appointment at PSU and told them we wanted to set up an endowment. They asked us how much we had, but we didn’t have anything,” said Joan Johnson of their initial funding appointment. “I don’t think they do that anymore. Looking back, I can’t believe we did it. They had every right to be skeptical.”

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