Commencement 2017

Kathleen D. Gunnell Saadat ’74

Kathleen Saadat photoBorn in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in a family committed to justice and education, Kathleen Gunnell Saadat graduated from Chicago’s Farragut High School in 1957 and from Reed College in 1974.

Since her arrival in Portland in 1970, Kathleen has held positions as diverse as quality control chemist in a pharmaceutical manufacturing company; janitor; contracts monitor and program analyst for training and employment programs; executive director of Oregon’s Commission on Black Affairs; director of affirmative action for the state of Oregon; assistant to Portland City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury; diversity director for Cascade AIDS Project; and diversity development and affirmative action manager for the city of Portland.

Kathleen has served Oregon’s LGBTQ community as a mentor and confidant for nearly 40 years. In 1976, she and six others organized Portland’s first gay rights march. Later, she and Keeston Lowry worked with a team of city employees to craft the Portland’s civil rights ordinance, which prohibited discrimination against gay and lesbian people and discrimination based on legal source of income. In 1992, she served on the steering committee for the campaign against Ballot Measure 9, which, had it passed, would have rendered GLBTQ people second class citizens.

An activist and advocate for African American rights and the rights of other people of color, for women’s rights, and for economic justice for all, Kathleen was a planner and participant in Portland’s International Women’s Day Celebration and served on the board of the Bradley Angle House. She worked with and supported Portland’s African American Alliance, African Americans Voting No on Nine, and the Lesbian Community Project.

Kathleen is a member of the Oregon American Leadership Forum, a 1992 fellow with the Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C., and an invited participant to the Hedgebrook Women's Writers Retreat.

She has received lifetime achievement awards from Portland PFLAG Black Chapter, Portland’s Equity Foundation, and from the World Arts Foundation in recognition of her contributions to the efforts to "Keep Living the Dream" of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She has been listed as one of “100 Who Lead in Oregon” by Oregon Business magazine. She received the Women of Achievement Award from Oregon State University; two Spirit of Portlandia awards for leadership from the Portland Lesbian Community Project; the Bayard Rustin Civil Rights Award, presented by the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment; the Harvey Milk Award, presented by After Eight, Corvallis, Oregon; a civil liberties award from the Oregon chapter of the ACLU; and the Phoenix Rising Jack Abele award.

Kathleen is a former member of the Oregon State University's board of visitors for minority affairs. She has served as coordinator for African Americans for Human Rights, a Portland group formed in 1992 to work against Measure 9, and as co-chair of the Portland Rainbow Coalition. She was a mediator with Portland's King Neighborhood Facility, and a member of the city of Portland's residential care facility licensing board, the community organization and planning committee of United Way, and the first planning committee for Portland's Black Women's Gathering. In 2012, Kathleen returned to Reed as the speaker for SEEDS Centennial Day of Service. Her favorite things include reading, playing Big Boggle, and talking about movies.