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Jean Kettenbach Vollum, Friend

A picture of Jean Kettenbach Vollum

Jean Kettenbach Vollum, artist and philanthropist, June 5, 2007, at home in Portland, from congestive heart failure. A native of Alberta, Canada, Jean Vollum pursued an early interest in sculpture with study at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and later at the Portland Art Museum School. She was a lifelong friend to Oregon sculptor Hilda Morris, and also was a weaver. In her sixties, Jean began photographing ice. “After my first trip to Antarctica in about 1995, I became spellbound by the sculptural qualities of the ice. . . . The luminous light qualities and the incredible tones of blue were captivating,” she noted. Exhibitions of her photography included Ice Images of Svalbard: Recent Photographs, which were displayed at Reed in 2003. Jean studied literature at the University of Idaho before moving to Portland to teach at Beach Elementary School in 1949. She married C. Howard Vollum ’36, cofounder of Tektronix, Inc., in 1950; they had five sons. The Vollums’ contributions to Oregon philanthropy were unprecedented. They served as trustees for a variety of schools—including for Reed, Oregon Health & Science University, the University of Portland, the Oregon School of Art & Craft, and Catlin Gabel. They were lifelong members of the Roman Catholic Church. "Jean understood how truly fortunate she was, and shared her fortune with those organizations with whom she felt passion and synergy,” says Johanna Thoeresz ’87, director of development. “She was quick to note in recent years that ‘Reed was Howard's love,’ but she always had a soft spot for the college and was pleased to be included in its future plans, most recently as an honorary chair of Reed's upcoming campaign.” Among the many monetary contributions the Vollums made were those to education, research, technology, art, music, natural resources, and social services. Among the many structures funded by or named in their honor are the Vollum College Center at Reed, the campus of Oregon College of Art & Craft, the Mt. Angel Abbey Library, the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research (Vollum Institute) at OHSU, the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center (Ecotrust), and the Native American Student and Community Center at Portland State University. Natural resources and landscapes in Oregon that received preservation funds from Jean Vollum include Opal Creek Wilderness, Table Rock, and Sycan Marsh; she worked with the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International to establish nature reserves in Colorado and Idaho as well. Along with Howard, she received the Governor’s Arts Award in 1981; she also received the honored citizen award from the Architectural Foundation of Oregon in 2003. Survivors include her sons, two of whom, Charles and Steve, attended Reed. Howard Vollum died in 1986. Jean Vollum is described as one who readily understood the legitimate needs of others, and who achieved a remarkable balance in all that she undertook. “Everything that is beautiful is always in balance,” she was quoted as saying. “With balance, you get a sense of peace. Every time I can bring beauty into the lives around me, I’m building a little peace.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: August 2007

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