We Honor Our Alumni and Volunteers

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Charlotte Coe Murray ’47 at the awards ceremony


Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

The first architectural design Charlotte Coe Murray ’47 ever produced was that of her family’s own home in a small South African village. She and her late husband Gordon moved to his native South Africa in 1951. With no vacant homes in the village, Charlotte took matters into her own hands and designed a house herself, finding an architect to translate her plans into construction documents. With this bit of experiential learning, she had found her passion: “I was hooked!” she says. “I was on site every day.”

When Gordon’s work as a land surveyor took them to Vancouver, B.C., in 1962, Charlotte enrolled in architecture school at the University of British Columbia. Though her three small children, Gordon ’77, Joyce, and Elizabeth, were still at home, she picked up where her two years at Radcliffe had left off, studying math and physics to qualify for entry into the architecture program. She was the only woman graduate of the program in 1969. She moved with her family to Venice, where she taught first-year architecture students in a study abroad program before meeting her future business partner, Rand Iredale.

Charlotte worked for several years at Iredale’s Vancouver firm before returning to UBC for a master’s in architecture. The groundbreaking idea of her 1979 thesis on urban sprawl and community revitalization was connecting historic preservation and environmental conservation, reusing old buildings to bring people back to the city center. At her thesis presentation, Iredale asked Charlotte to become a partner in a new firm, Iredale Group Architecture. He would be the planner, and she would focus on heritage. They were early pioneers in green building technology, including daylighting, groundsource or solar energy, natural ventilation, and use of recycled materials. Charlotte led a number of major projects, including the nine-year interior restoration of a major downtown Vancouver landmark, the Christ Church Cathedral, for which she and her firm received several awards. In 2004 Charlotte retired from her much-lauded 33-year career. In 2005 the Architectural Institute of British Columbia honored her with a lifetime achievement award for exceptional contributions to her community. Her goal now: travel as often as possible.

In October Charlotte traveled to Portland to accept the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, granted to Catlin Gabel graduates or former students for significant accomplishments in business or professional life. As past Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Phyllis Cantrell Reynolds ’47 noted, and as was apparent to all in the room, Charlotte has a singular combination of determination and humility, mixed with the soul of a storyteller. Despite the odds against a young mother pursuing a technical career in a male-dominated field, Charlotte triumphed. She is an inspiration, but to hear her tell it, all she needed to do was keep the end goal in sight.

Phil Buchanan ’88 with classmates Amy Weinstein ’88 and Maren Walta ’88


Distinguished Young Alumni Achievement Award

Phil Buchanan ’88 says he has never had a real career plan— but he has always had questions. In 2001 he left his job as a corporate strategy consultant to help start a nonprofit organization that aims to answer one very big question: how can charitable foundations most effectively fulfill “the potential of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector to make an impact on lives, communities, and issues”?

Phil and his colleagues at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) saw that despite a big concentration of financial resources at large foundations, there was almost no system to assess their performance. Phil’s Harvard Business School classmates all warned him he was crazy to leave a lucrative job. But in a sense he was just fulfilling an interrogative streak that he says was a product of both nature and nurture: “I’ve always been curious and skeptical and questioning. I was lucky to have parents who encouraged that. And at Catlin Gabel there were real opportunities to ask tough questions—the curriculum was structured around it.”

Now president of CEP, Phil has overseen the development of management and governance tools to define, assess, and improve foundation performance, based on data collected from hundreds of foundations and tens of thousands of nonprofit grantees. A 2003 report by a World Economic Forum task force called CEP “perhaps the most promising and ambitious effort in benchmarking philanthropy,” and the Chronicle of Philanthropy noted that “in a relatively short time CEP has shaken up the foundation world.” In 2007 and 2008, the Nonprofit Times named Phil to its “Power and Influence Top 50” list.

“The work of charitable foundations and nonprofits has cured diseases, helped reduce smoking rates, taken on corporate interests on issues like predatory lending, created our 9-1-1 system, aided those devastated by storms and fires, built the most respected university system in the world, fed the hungry, and consoled the mourning,” he says.

For positive change to happen, though, he says more people need to ask tougher questions earlier. As he told Upper School students in October, “I have become convinced that this country desperately needs more people like you—people who have had the benefit of the kind of rigorous education and leadership development opportunities that Catlin Gabel provides—to become leaders in the nonprofit sector. People who aren’t afraid to question the status quo.”

Phil, a Wesleyan University graduate who lives in Bedford, Massachusetts, with his wife Lara and their daughters Ava and Margo, demonstrates every day the power of challenging the status quo. The alumni association is thrilled to honor him as the inaugural Distinguished Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

Jordan Schnitzer ’69


Distinguished Alumni Service Award

University of Oregon president David Frohnmayer described Jordan Schnitzer ’69, who in 2004 received one of the university’s highest awards, as “first of all a person who gives of himself, a person who gives of his resources, and beyond that, what a true leader does, a person who recruits the services of others for what needs doing.”

A look at Jordan’s C.V. would certainly back this up. In addition to his work as president of his family real estate investment and development company, Harsch Investment Properties, and leadership of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation and the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, he has served on 33 board and civic committees, and four nonprofit directorships. His art collection’s outreach program has seeded several exhibitions and educational programs, as well as an annual show in Catlin Gabel’s Cabell Center.

For all his commitments, what makes Jordan stand out—and made him the ideal inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award—is the spirit in which he approaches his volunteer work. Jordan looks for long-term, hands-on engagements with difficult challenges: building a nonprofit residential care facility for seniors, bringing a world-class art collection to a university campus, restoring a beleaguered monument in the city where his grandfather once collected scrap metal door to door.

“I am very much a product of my parents’ influence,” says Jordan. Both children of immigrants, his parents Harold and Arlene Schnitzer instilled in him the value of diligence, community participation, and philanthropy. At Catlin Gabel, he found more role models and a diverse group—from kitchen and business office staffers to English teacher Gene Jenkins and longtime headmaster Manvel Schauffler—who helped him understand what it means to be part of a community. For someone who grew up in deliberately modest circumstances and went to work as a janitor for the family company at age 14 before helping it grow into one of the largest privately held real estate firms in the Northwest, this sense of the collective keeps him grounded.

“I’ve learned that as important as any of us may be at one moment in time, after we have collectively accomplished some great thing, life moves on, and no one remembers much about what one person did,” he says. It’s important to him to do the right things for the right reasons: “If you’re consumed with getting fame and adulation out of community involvement, instead of being honored to have helped others, you’ve got it all wrong.”

While he likes to say that the project of which he is most proud is the one he hasn’t done yet, these days Jordan is pretty proud of two particular parts of his life—daughters Audria ’17 and Arielle ’15. And they are no doubt learning quite a lot about service to their community from him.

Bob ’73 and Nell Bonaparte


Joey Day Pope ’54 Volunteer of the Year Award

The best thing about volunteering, according to Bob Bonaparte ’73, is that “the rewards greatly exceed what you put into it.”

Wife and fellow 2008 Joey Day Pope ’54 Volunteer of the Year Award recipient Nell Hoffman Bonaparte agrees: “As a parent volunteer you get so much satisfaction, getting to know a great community of volunteers, getting to know parents, and getting to know more about the school.”

Not many people know Catlin Gabel quite like the Bonapartes do. Returning to Portland in 1988 after nearly 20 years on the East Coast, Bob, who attended high school at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, soon found himself back in touch with old Catlin Gabel friends and teachers. He volunteered for the Annual Fund and organized a class reunion, then started chaperoning field trips when eldest son Bobby ’06 was in 6th grade.

As Bobby entered Upper School, both Nell and Bob became more involved with student and parent activities. Fellow parent Stella Voreas recruited Nell as a Parent Faculty Association (PFA) representative. Nell went on to serve two years as PFA president and school trustee, working to bring a host of new people into the group. She was the driving force behind, among other events, a daylong training for parents, faculty, and staff, focusing on interpersonal communications and conflict prevention and resolution.

Bob, meanwhile, signed on as assistant JV soccer coach, coaching both Bobby and son Ian ’08, then added Mock Trial coach to his roster of volunteer roles. Today, he and co-coach Jim Coon meet with the team members between two and three times a week to train for state and regional competitions.

Nell’s term as PFA president ended in 2008, but she remains an adviser to the group. “I found it a great experience,” she says. Her work with the PFA is, she says, a logical extension of her appreciation for the education her children, including 8th grader James, have received and the “sacrifices that teachers and staff have to make for that education to happen.” Nell and Bob also have a daughter, Margaret ’10, who attended Catlin Gabel before going to Phillips Academy Andover, where she is now a junior.

Nell and Bob are partners in business as well as volunteering. Their law practice, Shenker and Bonaparte, was credited in 2007 with more pro bono service than any other comparably sized firm in Oregon. This should come as no surprise to those who know them. As Bob says, “When you have discovered your passion in a certain area, like volunteering, it becomes like a daily workout. There’s no question that you’ll make time for it.”