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Scarred by war, dedicated to helping Oregon's poor.

Fred Mayer Rosenbaum ’50, Trustee

A picture of Fred Rosenbaum

Businessman, civic leader, philanthropist, and lifelong champion of the poor and disenfranchised, Fred Mayer Rosenbaum ’50 died January 12, 2010, in Portland, from kidney cancer.

Fred was born in Vienna in 1926. At the outset of the Holocaust, he escaped advancing Nazi soldiers by climbing out of a schoolhouse window, and left Austria on a Kindertransport. He lived in England for almost two years before being reunited with his parents. His childhood experiences set Fred on a lifelong path to community service.

In 1941, Fred and his family arrived in the United States. Fred enrolled at Reed, but enlisted in the U.S. Army when he turned 18, hoping to fight in Germany (he was ultimately sent to the Pacific Theatre and served in the Philippines).

After the war, he studied at Reed for an additional three years. At that time, he also joined the Oregon Air National Guard, eventually rising to the position of Brigadier General and serving as Assistant Adjutant General for the State of Oregon.

Fred studied at Northwestern School of Law in the 1950s, and in 1955, he married Jane Schlesinger, a Holocaust survivor from Berlin; they raised a son and daughter. Meanwhile, he pursued an astonishingly successful career in the insurance business, starting with Standard Insurance and later with a life insurance brokerage that he founded, now known as Rosenbaum Financial.

The more his business prospered, the more Fred gave back to the community. In 1968, he came up with an idea to run a summer camp for children from the projects at Camp Rilea, a national guard facility on the Oregon Coast. From a humble start (the first summer's budget totaled $750, a couple of footballs, and some Frisbees) the camp blossomed and to date has served more than 6,500 disadvantaged children.

Fred's associations, achievements, and awards, here much abbreviated, include service on the Reed board of trustees (1984–96), the Housing Authority of Portland, the Chamber of Commerce, the University Club, and the City Club. Fred was director of the Urban League of Portland; president of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; trustee of Congregation Neveh Shalom; member of the Governor's Committee on Youth; and national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League. The Anti-Defamation League presented him with their Humanitarian Award in 1964.

He also received the B'nai B'rith Akiba Award; the Human Relations Award from the City of Portland; the Equal Opportunity in the Area of Housing Award from the Urban League; the Human Relations Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews; Reed's Foster-Scholz Distinguished Service Award; and the Republic of Austria's Grand Decoration of Honor in Silver.

"Oregon is less of a place because Fred has died," said Gov. Ted Kulongoski. "I wish there were more Fred Rosenbaums."

“He saw things that never were and said, 'Why not?'” Jane Rosenbaum said. Son Mark said: “All of his work stemmed from an extreme appreciation for the freedom and opportunity presented by this country and his understanding of what it was like to be discriminated against based on religion and the impact of economic deprivation.” Raymond Rees, Adjutant General of the Oregon National Guard, stated: “Generations of the Oregon Guard can point to his leadership as key to our great success in all areas of fair and equitable treatment of all soldiers and airmen and our remarkable efforts to be of service to our communities.”

The Fred Rosenbaum Hangar at the Portland Air Base was established to welcome soldiers returning home from Iraq.

Survivors include Jane, and his children and grandchildren.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2010

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