The gift, which was announced at the recent annual retreat of the Board of Regents, will have a significant and lasting impact on the University, according to President-elect Rev. Mark Poorman, C.S.C., who was instrumental in the creation of the fund.
The Berchtolds provided seed money two years ago to create an initiative that focuses on character formation and applied ethics. The initiative includes “The Character Project,” which offers a venue for students to engage in guided discussions as to how personal value systems and beliefs can influence moral character.
Fr. Poorman created a similar program at the University of Notre Dame, where he previously team-taught a class with Carolyn Woo, currently on the University of Portland Board of Regents. Amy Dundon-Berchtold is also a member of UP’s Board of Regents.
The recent Dundon-Berchtold gift will create an endowment, providing for sufficient operating funds and an endowed directorship, according to Fr. Poorman.
“It means it is going to be permanently in place,” Fr. Poorman said. “It means the things we are currently able to do, such as the character formation and applied ethics initiatives are going to be solidified. They’re going to be regular features here at University of Portland. They’re no longer pilot projects.”
Amy Dundon-Berchtold says she became familiar with the Portland community and University of Portland a few years ago, largely through her husband Jim Berchtold, a 1963 UP graduate. The couple met following the loss of both of their spouses. Amy grew up in southern California and earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California prior to earning her MBA. She is self-employed and involved in real estate investments and property management. Jim was raised in the rural Oregon community of Mount Angel and is retired after a career in banking.
The couple began discussing the idea of moral formation and applied ethics during a university trip in 2011 that included several priests from the Congregation of Holy Cross. During discussions on that trip with Fr. Poorman and others, the couple made an on-the-spot exploratory gift of $25,000. Several months later, after the initial project was fine-tuned, the couple donated $500,000 to bring Fr. Poorman’s vision to reality.
The first programs included Dundon-Berchtold Scholarships and Fellowships that provided funding for students and faculty to conduct ethics-related projects within their field of study. Each student and professor receives a $2,500 stipend. They identify an ethical issue within their particular discipline, their field or college, and produce a report on their findings at year’s end.
“It’s been a great initiative,” said Fr. Poorman, noting that there have been 16 teams funded since the program’s inception last year.
The latest gift is designed to make the program lasting, which is why Amy and Jim are proposing that it become an institute.
“The word ‘institute’ helps establish it as being permanent, as intended, while still allowing us to float free of bricks and mortar,” Amy said.
“We envision this as being a wonderful anchor for University of Portland,” Amy said, “making UP a leader of other universities. It will offer an inclusive environment for students from all disciplines seeking to engage in guided discussions as to how personal value systems and beliefs can influence one’s character.”
Amy concluded, “It will be a unique opportunity to help the University of Portland become the premiere Catholic university in the West.”
Jim praised the enthusiasm among the faculty and students who have participated in the Dundon-Berchtold initiative. Student and faculty teams have come from business, education, the arts and sciences, health care, nursing and engineering.
“That, coupled with Fr. Poorman’s vision and enthusiasm just makes it an ideal time for this to happen,” Jim said.
The Dundon-Berchtold gift is part of the University’s RISE Campaign, which was announced in December 2010 and seeks to raise $175 million by 2014. The campaign has raised more than $172 million to date and is one of the largest development campaigns ever for a Pacific Northwest private college or university.
University president Rev. E William Beauchamp, C.S.C., stressed that the Dundon-Berchtold programs are a “central component” of what the university does.
“During my time as president we have often reflected on what would make a real difference -- what will be unique about UP that will be the core of our mission,” Fr. Beauchamp said. “The Dundon-Berchtold programs are just that.”
Fr. Poorman added: “I’m deeply grateful for Jim and Amy’s generosity. It’s been a real pleasure to have them as partners during the whole project because they are true believers that professional ethics, applied ethics, character formation, and moral development are all things that a place like University of Portland ought to be doing.”