Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
VOA DePreist Award - Arlene Schnitzer
September 5, 2019

Good evening everyone!

So wonderful to be back at the VOA to celebrate another of Oregon’s visionary leaders, Mrs. Arlene Schnitzer. What a thrill it is to honor Arlene tonight with the prestigious DePreist Award for Excellence. 

I want to thank Kay and the great folks at VOA for putting on this amazing event. She has been such a driving force behind VOA’s work. Oregon is incredibly thankful for her vision, leadership, and compassion. 

And under her leadership, Volunteers of America does incredible work. They provide childcare for parents struggling with chronic illness. They give strength to survivors of domestic violence. They lift individuals out of addiction. They’re giving so many Oregonians a second chance.

Let’s give Kay and her team at VOA a round of applause.

I want to take a moment to talk about generational growth. Because to know where you’re going, you have to recognize where you’ve been.

I would not be where I am today without the leadership of the incredible elected officials that came before me. 

Some of them, the greatest mentors I could have ever asked for--Barbara Roberts, Norma Paulus, Avil Gordley, Arlene Schnitzer--to name a few.

Each new generation builds upon the foundation we have laid for them. And what a foundation we have laid.

It was Rep. Shirley Chisholm who said, “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Oregon’s history is punctuated by influential women who broke barriers and expanded opportunities for future generations. 

Women’s voices must be heard. Our experiences and perspectives are important, and we must be in seats at every table. 

Weighing in on solutions to community problems and working to overcome our challenges--from economic development and education to spotlighting the voices of burgeoning artists and making cultural institutions accessible for everyone.

Our state has a proud lineage of strong, bold women who have inspired me, and our honoree tonight is one of them. Mrs. Arlene Schnitzer, a businesswoman, art patron, and philanthropist, embodies a belief I hold near and dear to my heart: that we must lift as we climb.

Arlene’s folding chair was her equal partnership in her husband’s business at a time when women were denied access. 

And since then, in her role as philanthropist and art patron, she has forever changed the cultural landscape of Oregon. 

There is no law, no requirement for those successful in business to give back to their community, to leave the world a little better than it was when they arrived.

And yet, Arlene does just that. As she became one of the most influential people in Oregon, she also sought to lift up her home state.

She has given her heart and soul to the people of Oregon, and has been more than generous to the community she calls home. 

By investing in treasured institutions, she is investing in a better future for everyone.

And for that, we are forever grateful. 

Thank you for everything you have done and congratulations.

Before I hand the mic over, I just want to mention a little bit more about Kay Toran. Can you believe it, folks, but as of this summer, she’s been with VOA for 20 years! 

I’m not sure how many of you know this, but before coming to VOA, Kay was the director of DHS Child Welfare. 

As your governor I cannot condone leaving state service for the nonprofit sector, but I think for Kay we can all agree that VOA was the right fit for her and for our Oregon communities. 

And now, give a warm welcome to CEO of Volunteers of America, Kay Toran.