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President announces $10 million gift from Fred Fields

February 02, 2012

  • Fred Fields

President Barry Glassner today announced a $10 million bequest to Lewis & Clark from the late Fred Fields. The gift is the second-largest in the history of the college.

“Fred Fields stands among the college’s all-time greatest supporters and advocates. We will forever be indebted to him,” President Glassner said. “Personally, I feel honored to have had a chance to get to know Fred and spend time with him. His commitment to this college, and ambitions for us, are inspiring.”

A renowned business and community leader, Fields became one of Lewis & Clark’s most devoted board members. He joined the board in 1985 and served for 21 years, including as chair from 2001 to 2004. As a life trustee, he and his wife, Sue, regularly attended college events on campus as well as in Portland and Indian Wells, California, where they lived part of the year. Even in the final months of his life, with his health deteriorating, Fields frequently came to campus for lunches and meetings.

In 1990, Fields completed a match for a challenge grant that established the Morgan S. Odell Professorship in the Humanities. In 1993, he pledged the lead gift for the Fred W. Fields Center for the Visual Arts, which has made an enormous difference for Lewis & Clark students and the artistic life of the campus in the years since.

Fields was equally transformative in his business career. After growing up in the Depression on a farm in Indiana and serving in the U.S. Air Corps in World War II, he completed his college education and began a long and fruitful career at Coe Manufacturing Company. In 1959, Coe selected the young engineer to manage the company’s West Coast operations. In the years that followed, Fields spearheaded Coe’s expansion and developed a variety of engineering innovations that enabled the company to grow, and he purchased the company outright in 1976.

Fields owned Coe for 23 years. By the time of its sale in 2000, the company had 750 employees, had acquired 15 related companies, and was selling machinery in the United States and 11 other countries.

In addition to his service to Lewis & Clark, Fields was a trustee at the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Sue Fields, who died in 2010, was a trustee at the University of Portland. The Fields’ philanthropy was similarly wide-ranging. In addition to Lewis & Clark, Fred and Sue provided generous financial support to Oregon Health & Science University, the University of Portland, the University of Oregon, Lake Erie College, Purdue University (Fred’s alma mater), the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland Art Museum, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

For his many years of leadership and service to the college and community, Lewis & Clark awarded Fred Fields an honorary doctorate in 2005.

The campus and local community remembered Fields at a special service held on January 21 in a packed Agnes Flanagan Chapel, which Fred had requested as the site for his memorial.