Tireless advocate embraced by family, friends and colleagues
By Cari Hachmann/The Portland Observer
It’s not every day that a college gets to name a building after a local hero.
As Portland Community College celebrated its 50th anniversary, hundreds of supporters arrived at the PCC Cascade Campus on Friday afternoon to honor the 75-year-old former Sen. Margaret Carter for a dedication ceremony in her name.
Stand up applauses echoed throughout the auditorium as Dr. Algie Gatewood, president of north Portland campus, greeted the audience to a “momentous occasion” in the renaming of the Technical Education Building to the Margaret Carter Technology Education Building.
As the first African-American woman elected to Oregon Legislature, Carter has remained a tireless advocate for higher education among underrepresented communities in north and northeast Portland.
Gleaming in a cerulean blue dress, the grandmother and great-grandmother listened on stage as special guests spoke to her esteemed honor.
A performance of “You raise me up,” by three former PCC students underscored the retired senator’s lifelong efforts to “lift up” local residents by ensuring funds for the community college.
Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel began the story of her remarkable journey in 1967 as she stepped off a bus in northeast Portland from native Louisiana, fleeing an abusive relationship with five young daughters in tow.
With nowhere to stay, no friends, and no more than a hundred dollars to her name, Carter went on to graduate from Oregon State University and began a life-long relationship with PCC Cascade as an intern in 1973. She was hired a year later as a counselor and psychology teacher.
Gov. John Kitzhaber remembered the historical session Carter was elected to the Oregon House in 1984 as one of his favorites. He commended Carter for a strong ethic that reminded lawmakers to be inclusive to all Oregonians, not just their political parties.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer recognized the large “rainbow audience” attending the dedication, and how such a crowd could only turn out to see the woman who represents it. Many politicians cited Carter’s persistent, even occasionally “annoying” advocacy to ensure legislative funding for her education programs.
Tamiko Phillips, Carter’s granddaughter and a PCC Margaret Carter Skills Center graduate, said that her grandmother was the root from which education in her family was promoted, as a path to economic and social success. As a single parent, Phillips will graduate with a Master’s degree in Psychology.
When it was her turn to speak, Carter thanked family, friends, fans and the college. “I accept with grace, the grace of my mother, and education for lifting one self up,” she said. “These young people are working hard and studying hard and keeping the dreams alive through institutions like PCC.”
Then, embodying the persistence admired by colleagues, Carter said the scholarship to be left in her name was a few dollars short. Like an auctioneer she enlivened the crowd with a spontaneous pledge drive and asked for donations from everyone, from those wearing grand suits to student chaperones.
Family members, friends, business partners, church preachers, and even college students stood up and offered $50 to $500 as Carter’s granddaughter jotted down pledges’ names.
Before long, over $10,000 dollars had been raised, “How many families do we have to care for?” asked Carter. “This will afford some of these people to go to school.”