May 25 2019
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PCC Foundation receives big gift from Chris and Tom Neilsen
by Oregon State Media, Inc.
  Tuesday May 16, 2017 - 12:19 PM
PORTLAND, Oregon - The PCC Foundation has reason to be excited. 

A $280,000 gift from Tom and Chris Neilsen of Northwest Portland will provide hundreds of students with scholarships over the next 20 years. The gift, the first of its kind for PCC, will be invested as a limited term endowment to maximize the impact of the gift and provide between $10,000-$20,000 per year for PCC student scholarships. The couple will take the required minimum distribution from their IRA, using the distributions for a longer term plan to support PCC students. 

Longtime PCC Foundation supporters, the couple owned Neilsen Manufacturing Inc., a Salem-based family business serving the high-tech industry. After retiring to Portland in 2007, Chris served on the PCC Foundation Board for five years and was appointed president for one of her terms. Today, she remains active with the philanthropic arm of the college and is a member of PCC Foundation's new Emeritus Board. 

"We have been supporters of the Future Connect and scholarship programs at PCC, and we decided that because that work is very important to us and to our community, we wanted to support it more deeply," said Chris Neilsen. "For many years we have been donors to the community college in the area where we've lived: first in Salem, and now in Portland, because we believe community colleges are the absolute best investment. We believe Portland Community College is top-notch." 

The Portland couple sought a way to significantly increase the returns from their philanthropic investment. As opposed to a traditional endowment that provides an average four percent return forever, the Tom and Chris Neilsen Impact Fund will divest in 20 years, allowing the couple to see the benefit of larger awards over a shorter span of time. 

"Every student story is an inspiration," she added. "Both of us are humbled by the persistence and desire by PCC students to make their lives better. We are proud to support them in accomplishing their dreams. And we know that as they do that, they impact their own families and the community positively." 

The Neilsens count PCC among their top priorities and are strong proponents of the PCC Foundation's Future Connect Program, which provides scholarships, in-depth advising and college success coaching to low-income and first-generation students. Scholars are guided through college, all the way to completion of a certificate or degree. We had an opportunity to sit down and chat with the couple to explore reasons for their generosity. 

"The Neilsen's gift of education will change the lives of our students and their families for generations to come," said Ann Prater, executive director of the PCC Foundation. "The impact will be enormous." 

For a detailed story on the Neilsens, visit: 

Photo: Chris and Tom Neilsen count PCC among their top priorities.

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