15 Fascinating People
Who Are They and What Do They Offer Oregon?
Contributing writers: Lisa Baker, Bridget Barton, Bridget Lynch, Gail Bowen McCormick, Jim Pasero, Alyse Vordermark

Al Egg

Al Egg has his hands full, shepherding a flock known for pot smoking, check bouncing, trash talking, tantrum throwing, and, this year, dog fighting.

Of course, the flock has its talents: It occasionally plays a dazzling game of basketball.

It is Egg’s job, as chaplain of the Portland Trail Blazers, to work on the other, less infamous traits, and reach the spiritual side of the players.

For the past 24 years, Egg has been the spiritual coach for the Blazers, offering advice, counseling and chapel services to any player who comes. In recent years, his job—to outsiders—increasingly resembles that of a juvenile detention counselor for a team that wants desperately to prove it can be good as well as good at the game.

It would be easy, given that desperation, for Blazers management to promote Egg’s role with the team as proof that morality is being taken seriously, the way President Clinton did when he sent for the Three Amigos “pastoral care” team in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

But Egg would resist it the way he did when a reporter contacted him for this profile. “It’s not about me. (The chaplain program) is about the players and it’s about God’s work,” he says. “I’m just a back scenes guy.”

It’s that kind of humility that’s likely responsible for the fact that the players know him simply as “Al” although he is an ordained pastor, and the fact that few Blazer fans have ever even heard of him. Even the Blazer’s own website fails to mention him.

Given the troubles of his flock, one might wonder whether Egg has been too quiet. If he’s sparing the rod and spoiling the forward. If a lightning bolt might come in handy here and there.

But Egg demurs. That’s not his job, he says.

What is? Just this, right out of God’s playbook, as Egg calls it: Stand with them. Stand with the players. “I just tell them, I’m here for you if you need me.”

No raps on the knuckles. No “Straighten Up and Fly Right” speeches.

“I hurt for them,” Egg says. “Look at it this way: If you can think back to when you were 18, 19, 23 years old, think about what you were doing. Now, put $3 million in cash in your hand. I, for one, would be dead. I wouldn’t be here today, because I was wild. I wouldn’t have survived.”

Well-meaning fans add to the trouble at times, making it hard for players to see themselves as regular people, Egg says. “Most of these guys wouldn’t be able to go down the street and buy their lunch if they went out today. People want to pick up their tabs. I’ve witnessed it myself. I was having lunch with Clyde (Drexler), and we go to pay the bill and find out someone’s already paid and then left so he can brag about buying lunch for Clyde.”

He understands being a fan. “I’m their biggest fan,” Egg says. “I love it when we win; hate it when we lose. When one of my guys gets a raw deal, my wife has to hold onto me. I have friends that are refs, but they better make the right call. I don’t like it when they mess with my guys.”

Not to say he isn’t sometimes frustrated with the team’s off-court activities: He wants to smack ‘em too, occasionally. “Everybody does,” he says.

But it takes the impact out of the moment if the flock member is already remorseful and humiliated beyond measure by his own actions. “Some of them have felt like smacking themselves,” he says.

While on the surface, misbehavior seems the hallmark of this team, underneath an opposing force seems to be growing. Attendance at the 15-minute chapel service before each home game is the highest in the league, Egg says, with nine players attending semi-regularly and 12 of the 16 men on the roster attending at least once in the past year.

Even outside the organization, the Blazers chapel services are becoming known. Players who don’t attend chapel at their home stadium attend in Portland when they play the Blazers, meeting with the home team in the weight room to hear the Word. 

Because the meetings are short, Egg says he keeps it simple and portable. He reminds players about what’s important in their lives. The Biblical story of Mary and Martha for example—one sister attending to work to the exclusion of all else, and another forsaking work for a time to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Egg shares his own life—most significantly the death of his teenage daughter in a car accident 20 years ago—and how he says God carried him through it. “There are things you don’t plan for in life,” Egg says.

Another unexpected event: becoming a chaplain. “I thought maybe I would be a CPA,” he says. A stint in the world of real estate brought him, through the back door, to the chaplaincy when he sold a house to former Blazers center Mychal Thompson, who asked him to start a Bible study for the players. It became chapel at the suggestion of Kelvin Ransey, who played for the Blazers from 1980 until 1982.

Theo Ratliff, who has played with the team for about a year, has high praise for Egg. “He’s very inspirational, a very positive guy. He always has a good word. Like when he greets you, he says he’s ‘too blessed to be stressed,’ and that says it all.”

Ratliff, a Christian since he was 12, says part of Egg’s success is that he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. “Everyone looks at the Pope as being all religious and all-knowing. But Al’s not like that…He knows everyone on the team has a good heart. Bad things may happen, but you can turn to God, and repent. Pray on everything.”

Bobby Medina, strength coach for the team, says NBA players who generally trust no one nevertheless trust Egg, to the point of sharing personal struggles in chapel—things they’ve never told anyone.

Medina doesn’t find it mysterious. “He’s the voice I trust.”

In a troubled and chaotic year, Egg has been a steadying hand, Medina says. “Like when Coach Cheeks got fired, he was there to say, ‘Stay the path,’ and remind everyone that all this stuff is temporary…

“Seems like he’s always been there.”

Al Egg’s ministry to the Blazers is funded by Beyond Victory Ministries, a nonprofit organization. Egg also serves as chaplain for the Portland Beavers and the Portland State Vikings.


Lori Hardwick

Increasingly today, it seems that behind every successful political campaign there is a substantial war chest. And in Oregon, behind many of those substantial war chests there is Lori Hardwick.

Though the political science major planned to join the Central Intelligence Agency out of college, Hardwick got involved with the state legislature, and 18 years later politics is still her game.

“Right out of college in 1987 I was in the state legislature (as a legislative assistant to Republican Sen. Gene Timms from Burns) and in the off-season I started managing campaigns,” Hardwick says. “I really liked the events and money piece so that’s where it all started.”

Since then, Hardwick was an integral part of Republican Sen. Gordon Smith’s 2002 re-election as well as his two campaigns in 1996, among many others. She was Deputy Finance Chair for Bush-Cheney ’04 in Oregon and held a record-setting $1 million event for that campaign.

Hardwick has put together events from barbeques to ballroom dinners but finds the most successful events are those that bring the candidate closer to potential contributors where they can have some personal interaction.

“The most successful events are those where people can be most social—like in someone’s home,” Hardwick says. 

More informal events seem to work best in Oregon, which is an example of the different cultures of giving in different parts of the country, she says. In Washington DC, the ‘kick-off breakfast’ really works well, but people in Oregon would have no idea what it was, she says.

Just as not every event works everywhere, not everyone can be a successful fundraiser.

“It has to be part of your being,” says Hardwick. “What has made me successful is that I’m hardworking, honest with clients and donors, and loyalty and teamwork are very important to me.” 

Hardwick’s years in the fundraising game have given her the opportunity to create strong working relationships with clients and donors based on honesty and credibility, she says. 

“I’m lucky because what I do fulfills my passion for politics even though I’m not making strategy decisions,” she says. “I love meeting people inside campaigns and getting to know donors—about their lives and what drives them. I know I’ll be doing this at some level for a long time. There are more races I’m interested in winning. I’d love to win a Governor.”


Marie Davis

The Ethiopian famine, the Mexico City earthquake, Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, the floods in Mozambique, the tsunami in Indonesia. What do all of these disasters have in common? Marie Davis.

Since her first volunteer trip with the Northwest Medical Teams International in January 1985, Marie Davis has dedicated more than three years of her life helping those in the most dire need. Davis, who is a nurse at Kaiser Permanente Ambulatory Surgical Center in Salem, has made 38 trips and served in nearly every major disaster in the last 20 years—many in risky, difficult places, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I have always wanted to serve the needy in developing countries. I wanted to be in the Peace Corps, but could not serve long term because I had family and other obligations.  When Northwest Medical Teams began their work in l979, I had two small children. I vowed, when they were grown, to do a short-term mission with this fine organization.

“My opportunity came in 1985 when I spent six weeks in northern Ethiopia with starving refugees at Ibnat camp,” says Davis. “After six weeks in Ethiopia and what I called a ‘Baptism in Fire,’ I was hooked.”

The following year Davis’s entire family returned to Sudan, Africa where they spent three months working in village health and development. Since then Davis’s husband Curt and two daughters, Jennifer and Rachael—who are both now nurses—have traveled extensively with her.

“I keep going back because I have a good education in nursing and the ability to make a difference. I have been given so much and therefore feel I should give back to those less fortunate,” says Davis.

With so many trips under her belt, which ones have left the biggest impression? Ethiopia and Rwanda. 

“In Ethiopia we set up an intensive children's health clinic where we saw typhoid, cholera, meningitis, measles, pneumonia and many other diseases superimposed on malnutrition. Babies were dying in the arms of their moms as they waited in line to be seen. I cried for four days before I decided crying did not save lives and I finally got down to hard work.”

“In Rwanda I saw the numerous mass graves of the people who had been slaughtered in the war between the Hutus and the Tutsis,” Davis says. “The grief was unbelievable both for us and for the refugees. We had many small victories in Rwanda. In the refugee camps we would listen to the stories and cry with the people. We knew it was important for us to be there and it was a privilege.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” says Joe DiCarlo, Northwest Medical Teams director of emergency relief, “but she’s not someone who is ‘amazing’. But she is amazing because she’s taking the gifts God gave her and using them to help so many people around the world.”


Alexis Serna

Images of athletes with their heads hanging in despair—often covered with a towel or helmet obscuring the anguish on their faces—are commonplace in sport.  Fans rarely catch a glimpse of the true face of the agony of defeat. But Oregon State University’s freshman kicker did not hide his emotions from the world on a soggy football field early last fall.

To say it was a big game for Alexis Serna doesn’t quite capture the situation.

It was his first game as a kicker for Oregon State University and it was being broadcast on national television. OSU was playing Louisiana State University, the reigning BCS champions, on the bayou in Baton Rouge. The game itself was delayed due to a wild thunderstorm that sent bolts of lighting crashing outside the stadium as anxious fans waited.

OSU had the lead until the last few minutes of the game—an upset was in their sights.  Then LSU tied it 15-15. In overtime, LSU scored again, but the Beavers answered with a touchdown of their own bringing the score to 22-21. Redshirt freshman Alexis Serna set up for his third PAT (point after touchdown) attempt of the night.

“I really don’t remember it,” Serna says.

What Serna cannot remember about his third missed PAT that night is that immediately after it went wide right, he threw his helmet down on the turf, jumped up and down screaming and dropped to his knees and started tearing at the grass.

His two earlier PAT attempts that night hit the uprights. 

Serna says he tries to hit the uprights to test his accuracy during practice. “It’s hard to hit the uprights once, but twice is amazing,” he says.

In the locker room after the game, Serna laid face down on the floor crying.

“I saw the camera there on the ceiling but I gave it no thought,” he says. “It was so hectic and I was completely oblivious. The defense was in their part of the locker room and they were yelling—I heard them, but I was in my own zone. I knew they were yelling about what happened and other people were trying to calm them down. I was in a daze.”

The next day, Serna’s sister picked him up.

“It was great to hang out with her and get a sense of reality. It was good to realize that football is not everything—it’s just something I’m doing while I’m in college, getting an education. I needed to put it behind me and go back to practice on Monday,” he says.

Once school started, Serna was back to starting and had sat out only one game since the LSU loss. He made his first appearance in OSU’s win against New Mexico, making a fourth quarter PAT to the complete delight of Beaver fans at Reiser Stadium.

“Proving that I could do it was a really big thing for me. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t a mental case that would keep missing. I wanted to put it behind me,” he says.

Since then, the walk-on kicker has earned a scholarship at OSU. And Serna closed the season by being named second-team All-Pac-10. Friends still tease him and occasionally pizza delivery guys and girls at parties recognize him from his few days of infamy. But Serna says he’s gotten past his performance in the LSU game and the numbers don’t lie: since then he has converted on 40 out of 41 kicks.


Liz Cawood

Like “Pat” on “Saturday Night Live,” Eugene’s Liz Cawood is an enigma.

Unlike “Pat,” whose gender remained a mystery despite every attempt to out it, Cawood is most definitely a woman.

But try to peg her on her politics? Happy hunting.

Cawood came to the public fore in the 1990s when her public relations firm—simply named CAWOOD—carried the banner successfully for the coming of Hyundai to Eugene. To a wetlands parcel, no less.

Since then, candidates and causes have lined up at her door to get the same against-the-odds results. Cawood is now considered a must-call consultant for those in need of a voice, an image, a strategy. She has a finger in all the big community pies, serving on several policy boards that advise elected officials on economics, planning and development.

Her pro-business creds are impressive: Her clients include wood products companies, developers and banks. Her biz reputation was further embellished with her participation in the Gang of 9, a once-anonymous group whose cartoons lampooning the city of Eugene over perceived anti-business policies were the buzz of the town in 2001.

She held several posts within the Eugene Chamber of Commerce. She was the founding president of the Greater Oregon chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, a Rotary member, a former member of the Eugene/Springfield Metropolitan Partnership Board.

She believes transportation is Eugene’s current hot issue and that policy makers should design a plan that accommodates the fact that people drive cars. She’s ready to roll up her sleeves.

‘Nuff said?


She is also a trustee for the Nature Conservancy and this year will work on its marketing committee. She loves TV’s “The West Wing.” Last year, she put her efforts behind a tax increase to raise money for education and social services, and linked arms with Democrat Kitty Piercy, now Eugene mayor, in the endeavor. While observers say she actively backed Piercy’s run for mayor, Cawood says she did nothing official or financial to help Piercy, but that she likes Piercy’s approach to the job and counts her among her friends.

So: Wall Street Journal or New York Times?

“I have to choose? Hmmm…Well, I guess it would be the Times,” Cawood says.

Cawood readily admits she is difficult to define, recalling her own participation in a yearlong summit aimed at bringing two divergent groups to consensus on the issues. She says she began by stating her position, and then listened to the others. “At the end I believed something else…I found that middle ground.”

Even in her personal life, there are contradictions. Loves chocolate, is addicted to Caesar salads. Served on both the Eugene symphony and opera boards, watches “Desperate Housewives” on television.

Eugene former mayor Jim Torrey likes the fact that Cawood can’t be painted into one group or the other and believes it is the key to getting real solutions out of a polarized community. With a foot in each camp, he says, “She is a person who is able to calm the waters.”


Bernard Fox

His curriculum vitae is so long it requires a PDF file.

His bio elicits a feeling of inadequacy among people who foolishly thought there were only 24 hours each day in which to achieve.

For Bernard Fox, PhD, chief of the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center within the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute in Portland, a single day is like a tiny briefcase stuffed with a month’s worth of supplies and then sat on to accommodate a bit more.

Consider a shortlist of Fox’s accomplishments:

Fox was involved in the first-ever gene transfer experiment; he launched the first gene therapy trial for cancer in Oregon.

He’s published about 57 research papers.

He is an associate professor in two different departments at Oregon Health & Science University.

He created a training program to help doctors move proposed treatments from the theoretical to the real world, a program he has re-created in Munich, Germany, where he also has been a visiting professor—an award-winning visiting professor.

He’s a frequent and sought-after speaker at professional conferences and seminars.

He’s the co-founder of a group that shares information and insights on cancer research.

He is currently in the midst of clinical vaccine trials for melanoma, prostate and lung cancer.

He designed and supervises the Human Applications Laboratory at the Research Institute.

But he doesn’t mind if folks call him “Bernie.”

His specialty is fighting cancer cells using immunology—specifically, vaccines that prompt the body’s own immune cells to recognize and attack tumors. In his research, he has discovered that if he can activate these “Pac-Man” cells, as he calls them, in large enough numbers, he can shrink tumors. Even melt them away.

Already, Fox has seen encouraging results in humans.

And it almost didn’t happen. Any of it.

Thirty years ago, Fox was attending seminary, bound for a life in the priesthood. What happened? “I met my wife,” he says. “She corrupted me. She’s wonderful.”

It’s a relationship that remains strong after three decades, two children, and a job that jets Fox across the Atlantic on a regular basis and keeps him in the lab as late as 7:30 most nights. There isn’t much time for entertainment, except for snippets of movies he sees in flight and an occasional game of golf.

But there is always Wednesday, a day set aside for “date night” in the Fox household.

In the time that’s not dedicated to work or family, Fox has another love: Michigan football. “Here’s hoping Joey Harrington has a good year,” he says.

If Harrington were like Dr. Fox, maybe one day would do.


Maria Eitel

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart, like my dad,” says Maria Eitel. He was the ultimate entrepreneur, always had creative ideas. He owned a commercial boat repair business. My mom is the persevering family caretaker. Growing up, we were the classic American family with multiple ethnicity.”

Born in Everett, Wash. to her first-generation Greek mother and first-generation German father, Eitel graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Canada in 1983, which she chose she says, not to study Greek or German, but because she wanted to learn French.

Based on past performance, don’t get in the way of anything that Maria Eitel sets her mind to achieve. Her path is fascinating because it’s personal, creative, somewhat unpredictable, and it definitely spans the globe.

After graduate school at Georgetown University and a stint at the U.S. Information Agency producing video programs, Eitel was ready for a change. She says, “I was in D.C. and I thought it would be very cool to work at the White House. So I just started asking people if they knew anybody who worked at the White House. I was incredibly fortunate.”

Eitel landed a temporary assignment and was soon running the White House office for media affairs. That was 1989-1992—the Bush I years. “I left because we lost, and I was exhausted. After that, I faxed a resume to MCI.”

Bilingual in French, before long Eitel was recruited by Microsoft to do Corporate Affairs in Paris, France. “My daughter and I went to Paris and lived there for four years,” says Eitel. “That was the beginning of the antitrust suit in Europe against Microsoft. Then Nike Corporate Responsibility called. I came to Nike and I met people and I was blown away. I saw how passionate they were about the corporate responsibility thing. It wasn’t just to come in and fight a fire. You could see the path, tap into what Nike was all about. I have not had a day where I’ve regretted the decision to come here. I’ve been here 7 ½ years.


This spring, Nike announced that Eitel would be the president of the new Nike Foundation. This is a start-up—it needs time and attention,” says Eitel.

Eitel has already traveled to India, Bangladesh, Brazil, and Zambia for assessment trips.

“Phil’s thesis,” says Eitel, “is that you invest in human capital and it creates a positive cycle. Girls are the ‘point of the arrow.’ When you invest in girls the ripple effect is enormous,” says Eitel, who has a 14-year-old daughter. “We’re about poverty alleviation in creative ways. It’s about girls and boys changing the world.

“When I travel,” says Eitel, “I always ask, ‘What do you want to be? What do you want to do with your life?’ You’ll be in this village where there’s nothing, and the kids will talk about their hopes and dreams and you think, ‘What are the chances?

“Once in Bangladesh, there was this boy—he looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Do you think because we’re poor we don’t have the same dreams and hopes and ambitions?’ He wanted to be a poet.”

Eitel understands. Hope and ambition are in her blood, in her genes.

Eitel remembers walking from the Old Executive Building to the Oval Office with President Bush. Her mom and a friend, in town for a visit but too shy to approach them, stood off to the side watching. She waved at them and they took photos. “Growing up in an immigrant family was tough,” says Eitel. “There were high expectations. That was the moment—seeing my proud mom—that I knew I had achieved my parents’ goals for me.

“How do we get barriers out of the way so those young people can achieve their hopes and ambitions?” Eitel asks.

But she’ll figure it out. Eitel’s entrepreneurial spirit and the Nike Foundation’s $20 million in assets give a whole new meaning to the words “girl power.”


Zach Mertens

Zach Mertens’ business, down an alley in Southeast Portland, beyond the silver, metal door and up the stairs, is infested with hundreds of thousands of bugs. But the five dogs that greet you at the door to Idylwilde Flies seem oblivious.

“This bug looks like the real bug—it is actually that big,” says Mertens, holding up a particularly large insect. “You’ll see it on a couple of the lakes on Mt. Hood. This one hatches right around evening time, right as it gets dark.”

Bins, hundreds of them, overflow with a variety of tiny creatures, in all forms and colors. “These all represent different stages of the same insect,” says Mertens, pointing to a row of bins. “The bigger ones are for salt water or steelhead. Sometimes we imitate ocean food like this shrimp. Others are just a lot of movement—attractor flies.

Mertens’s company, Idylwilde Flies, ties about 160,000 dozen flies a year for the sport of fly-fishing, with sales mostly in the Rockies and the West, some in the East and Canada. That’s about 14,000 dozen of the tiny creatures every month. “It’s a lot of flies, a lot,” says Mertens. “It’s a precise business. It’s kind of like fashion. There are some standards—flies that year in, year out everybody stocks and sells a lot of them.

“It’s partly mimicking the insect and partly bin appeal,” explains Mertens. “If it doesn’t have appeal in the bins, it doesn’t sell, so it has to be a combination.

“The first rule for fly fishing, especially for trout,” says Mertens, “is that you can never have enough flies. When you’re out there, you’re always short the one fly you need. It depends on the watershed, but say you’re fishing a trout stream in Montana, you’ll carry a box of mayflies—hundreds of bugs.

Mertens got his B.A. from Lewis and Clark in 1992 and four years later he started the company. “I just kind of winged it,” says Mertens. But there’s more to the story. 

Born in Hawaii, where his dad worked for Dole Pineapple, Mertens lived in the Philippines, Hawaii, China (he speaks Mandarin Chinese), and graduated from high school in Hong Kong. “In China,” says Mertens, “for three years we lived in a city with no other Americans, so were pretty isolated.”

After a couple years as a ski bum and fishing guide in Montana and Wyoming, Mertens had an idea. “When I was guiding I was seeing more and more of the flies coming from overseas, but they didn’t know much about fly-fishing. They either had an overseas person filling a market, or a U.S. fly tier who didn’t have any overseas connections. I figured I could marry the two—knowing the product, and knowing how to operate overseas.

Mertens contacted an old friend from the Philippines. “My friend said, ‘How do you feel about working with the underprivileged?’ I said ‘I’m okay with that.’ So he introduced me to Sr. Christine Tan, a Catholic nun from the Philippines. She was from a very affluent family but she had dedicated herself to the poor and she lived in the slums of Manila, with the squatters. Sr. Christine passed away a year ago, she was very well known—the Mother Teresa of the Philippines. She was a tough lady who believed in work and not charity. And she told it how it was. She wanted jobs for her people, wanted them to earn a living and get paid fairly. She particularly wanted jobs close to people’s homes so they didn’t have to pay for travel or clothes and could take care of their families. She said she would provide me with honest people who would never steal from me as long as I treated them well.

“I went over and taught five people how to tie flies,” says Mertens.

Now, nine years later Sr. Christine’s nephew, a Filipino businessman and Harvard MBA grad, is Mertens’ overseas partner.

Idylwilde’s 150 Filipino employees make more than minimum wage, earn Social Security, and a 13th month bonus. “Our people being healthy, well-fed, and happy is the key, because we sell our product based on quality,” says Mertens.

“We also worked with Sr. Christine,” he adds, “so we had somebody that was monitoring us and making sure that her people were treated fairly. We took unskilled people and gave them a skill that’s valuable. They were the poorest of the poor. Now, they make enough money to support their families.”

At 35 years old, with a successful international business, Mertens still finds time occasionally to fish and ski. He and his wife Katharine, a Purdue grad and equine vet, live on one acre in Clackamas County with three dogs, one horse and one cat.


Rob Ray

It’s a bit like that old story of starting in the mailroom and one day running the company.  With the exception of the years while he was busy with graduate school, Rod Ray has been working for the same company since high school. He started out of high school—as one of three employees—and worked summers during college for Bend Research Inc. Now, he’s president of the company.

“We’ve done contract research for over 100 companies—long term contracts,” Ray says.  “So although I’ve always worked for Bend Research, I’ve gotten to know a lot of different corporate cultures and scientific approaches over the years.”

Bend Research specializes in the research and development of novel pharmaceutical-delivery technologies. In lay terms, they make drugs work better.

“Drug molecules can be problematic. For instance, some need to be released over time rather than all at once,” Ray said. “We develop technologies that make those problematic drugs work better than they would otherwise.”

And they do it all in beautiful Bend.

In fact, the founder of Bend Research chose the company’s location due to its proximity to prime fly-fishing, Ray says.

On a recent ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Ray happened to meet an Australian man who was interested in moving from his home in Atlanta, Georgia. Ray suggested he come and visit Bend, and although he doesn’t have a job yet, he is moving there.

“Bend is a place where technologically competent, motivated people want to be,” Ray says. “They just move here—sometimes without even having a job first. We are always surprised when we are ready to do hiring that there are so many good people from the local area.”

Of the nearly 150 employees, Ray says about 130 of them have college degrees and about a third of those hold advanced degrees. He believes that the company employs a large fraction of the high tech employees in central Oregon’s burgeoning high tech industry.

Ray says that most of Bend Research’s employees are active and enjoy spending time outdoors. The company has hired a personal trainer to come twice a week to help employees get in better and better shape.

“It’s a win-win situation for our company,” he said. “It’s better for the employees and better for the company.”

Ray, who is a registered professional engineer in Colorado and Oregon and holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Oregon State University and a master’s degree and PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder, was born and raised in Bend and loves the area and the community.

Bend’s Volunteers in Medicine Clinic of the Cascades project has been one of Ray’s pet projects since its inception in 2003. He serves on the clinic’s board of directors.

“It is a completely volunteer-run medical clinic servicing the working poor,” Ray says. “It plugs the hole between federal and state medical programs and people who have insurance. It’s a cool deal and it’s something I’m very excited about.”


Dorothy English

To become a statewide sensation at 92 takes a certain kind of person. One with the fight still in her.

That’s Dorothy English, focal point of Measure 37, the measure that guarantees property owners compensation or development waivers for loss of value caused by land-use rules imposed after they took title.

English, who with her late husband scrimped and saved to afford a 39-acre parcel in Multnomah County, has spent 30 years fighting for the right to build on it. Half of it has since been sold and English is hoping to draw the investment value from the remaining land for her descendants before she dies.

Even after the measure passed, English says the county was still trying to rip her off by delaying permit approval as long as possible, hoping she would die before she could begin building. But on March 17 a special waiver passed, finally allowing English to begin development.

But English isn’t done yet. “I’m glad I know how to swear ‘cause I got names for those people,” she proclaims.

At “92 going on 93,” English is far from retiring or retired. She puts a reporter on hold while she deals with other important calls that pour in.

She is blunt about the purpose of her fight: to stop what she calls the “land-stealin’” ways of the state.

English is Oregon born and raised in a place called Summerville, near Grants Pass. She’s quintessentially Oregonian, but in the traditional pioneering sense. Consider this vintage Dorothy English story in her own words:

“One woman called me and said, ‘You’re one of those people that wants to build houses and run the cougars out of their homes…Do you have cougars?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we had a good shot at one a couple of weeks ago.’ She hung up!”

She stresses that she and her husband earned the land through hard work—he on the railroad for 20 years and then at a Portland tannery after that—she through 50 years of retail sales, beginning with school supplies and later, with craft products at a store she called Dorothy’s Fiber Flower Shop.

The flowers were an epiphany to English. “I love flowers, but I realized I couldn’t take care of them like I had been, so I got my nose into artificial flowers and it was like something I’d been waiting for my whole life.”

The flowers were made of wood fiber rather than plastic or silk, giving them a unique quality that caught the eye of a hobby magazine editor who invited English to take her products on the road. English found herself on the show circuit for two decades, demonstrating crafts and selling her wares.

Even now, she says, she loves to teach people how to do things. This month, she’s planning a trip to Washington state to teach two women crafters how to make paper roses.

As to how she feels about being the talk of the state at 92: “I don’t feel swelled up at all… I’m just happy my efforts are helping other people.”


Vahe Sarkissian

A nanometer is a length of measurement equal to one billionth of a meter. 

It’s tiny. Actually it’s tinier than tiny ever imagined. It makes the head of a pin look like Texas.

And it is the basis of the field called nanotechnology—manipulating individual molecules and atoms at the molecular level. It’s Vahe Sarkissian’s realm.

As Chairman, President and CEO of FEI Company headquartered in Hillsboro, Sarkissian is watching the dawn of a new era in technology.

Nanotechnology is in its infancy but there is no end to what it might achieve, Sarkissian says. “No one can predict what it will be able to accomplish. There is no end to the possibilities.”

Sarkissian’s company makes tools for nanotechnology, equipment that enables scientists to image, analyze and manipulate molecules and atoms at the nano-level. According to a recent issue of Business Week magazine, FEI is one of only three companies that have been winners in the nanotechnology field thus far.

By understanding matter at the molecular level, scientists are able to rearrange molecules to make other goods. For instance, if the atoms in coal are rearranged, a diamond is created. Other real-world applications already using nanotechnology include golf balls designed to fly straight and nick-proof trims on Hummers.

“Even the most informed scientists admit that the complexities about nanotechnology are enormous,” Sarkissian says. “There is so much more to explore; we are just at the dawn of the technology. It’s like space exploration. Just because we went to the moon doesn’t mean we understand the universe.”

Sarkissian said his inquisitive mind and desire to always push the edge of the envelope drew him to the sciences at an early age. From his beginnings as a microchip designer, leading edge technology has always been his passion.

“Nanotechnology has the potential to affect all facets of human life,” Sarkissian says,  “from creating materials that are lighter and easier to wear, to watches with larger data storage capacity, to medicine.”

The possibilities are limitless, he says. One of the most exciting possibilities for nanotechnology applications is the development of smart drugs and delivery systems that would be individually built to match a specific patient’s needs. For example, a nano-drug could be built to seek out and destroy the unique genetic profile of an individual patient’s cancer cells.

Though much of nanotechnology sounds like science fiction, Sarkissian says most of it is well grounded in science. But don’t count out more fantastic Star Trek-type ideas.

“It will happen, it’s only a matter of time,” says Sarkissian.


Erik Sten

Forgive Erik Sten if his laugh sounds more like the cackle of legendary Hollywood actor Sydney Greenstreet (“Maltese Falcon”/“Casablanca”)—he’s got a right to enjoy himself. He’s had a very big year. After all, he got a mayor elected and he managed to chase away a fairly large turnover company, Texas Pacific.

You doubt Erik Sten got Tom Potter elected? “It wasn’t until Erik started working the phone and his press contacts that the Potter campaign took off,” says one high-ranking Oregon government official.

Or just ask the Grant high graduate and two-term Portland city commissioner himself.

“Jim Francesconi and I worked together for a long time. He is a hard working and ethical person but he wasn’t the best choice for mayor.” Sten describes why he couldn’t remain silent. “At a certain point I felt I needed to say what I thought publicly. If I didn’t, what’s the point of being in office? Most of my people, my circle, said it was a mistake, that Potter was going to get his butt kicked and ‘you will be punished by Jim.’”

Sten followed his instincts and won—helping Potter easily defeat his well-financed opponent, Jim Francesconi.

Score: Sten-1, Portland Business Community-0

And then came Texas Pacific wanting to buy a Northwest utility, PGE. Sten first learned about the deal when he got a call from Texas Pacific proponent Tom Walsh.

Sten remembers his initial meeting with the Texas Pacific executives. “I met with David Bonderman and Kelvin Davis. They were very condescending to us. Patting us on the head.”

He explains that it was when Texas Pacific filed their proposal with the Oregon PUC in March of last year that his fight began. “The proposal stunk. Local ownership was a shell. There was no rate reduction. The short-term focus was opposite of what the utility needs. It was clearly a play for a quick buck by an out of state turn-around artist.”

“I gave a fiery speech at the City Club and said ‘this thing stinks and ought to be turned down.’ It was the first rallying point for the opposition. I was stopped by people for about a week who agreed with me.”

Sten compares his decision to fight Texas Pacific with his support for Mayor Potter. “It was a bit like the Potter thing, when conventional wisdom is wrong about what the public really thinks.”

Updated Score: Sten-2, Portland Business Community-0

And Sten’s next mission, besides having the city buy a regional utility, is making future races for City Hall publicly funded. He calls it “Clean Money.” Grabbing the $200,000 available public dollars requires 1,000 residents to give $5 for a commission race, and 1,500 residents to give $5 for the mayor’s race. Sounds like a job for the unions, making this one more like “Clean Union Money.”

Predicted “Clean Money” Score: Sten-3, Portland Business Community-0

If you’re Erik Sten, still in your 30s, happily married, and having spent the last year playing the city’s king maker, and diverting resident’s attention from a previous multi-million dollar water billing fiasco, the future deserves a cackle.


Rick Steber

Happily tucked away in south Central Oregon lives Rick Steber, and he just won the Super Bowl. Well, the western writers version of the Super Bowl—the 2005 Golden Spur Award.

Steber’s book, “Buy the Chief a Cadillac,” won the award for Best Western Novel and joins the ranks of “Lonesome Dove,” by Larry McMurtry, “Dances with Wolves,” by Michael Blake and “Skinwalker,” by Tony Hillerman.

The award will be presented by the Western Writers of America at their annual meeting in June in Spokane, Washington.

“I was really surprised when they called me,” Steber says. “I had to call them back the next day to ask if I’d really won to make sure I wasn’t delusional.”

Steber is using this opportunity to bring his books to a wider audience. He has found an agent and is working on a deal with a major publishing house that should be finalized this month (April). Previously, Steber published his 34 books himself, and they were only available regionally.

“I’ve sold about one million books in the West, but I looked on a map and it looks like there are a lot more people in the East,” Steber says, smiling. 

Steber is eager to take advantage of the benefits of working with a major publishing company. 

“I’m looking forward to having more time to get back to writing,” he says. “The more success I’ve had, the less time I’ve had to write.”

Most of Steber’s books were written in his cabin in the woods, he says. It doesn’t have any electricity so he takes 12-volt batteries to run his laptop, and he had to run two miles of phone line in order to receive telephone service.

“Now when the phone rings,” he says, “I say, why the hell did I do that?”

Even leaving his cabin to come into tiny Prineville can be culture shock for the 58-year-old writer.

“I like it rural,” he says. “If I can’t pee off the deck, I don’t want to live there.”

“Buy the Chief a Cadillac” is about the termination of the Klamath Indian Reservation in 1961. In a settlement from the federal government, each man, woman and child on the reservation received $43,000 in cash. 

“I’ve heard that there are about 250 writers in the United States who make a living writing books,” Steber says. “The rest have to teach school or do something else to make money. I’m lucky because I’ve been making a living writing books since 1975.”


Larry Colton


Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing.

You can never tell with either how it will go

Or what you will do;

Generating excitement…   

                        From the “Complete poems of Marianne Moore” (1961)

Under a warm winter Florida sun, a 21-year-old rookie with a golden arm punched his fist into a leather glove. The sweet scent of new mown grass in the air and fresh white chalk on a perfectly raked infield was the tableau for Larry Colton’s new life. The year was 1965. It was spring training camp in Clearwater, Florida. Living his childhood dream of playing major league baseball, Colton was one of the most promising young pitching talents in the country. He had it all—a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and an engagement to a beautiful young co-ed from his alma mater, University of California, Berkeley. In July of that year he would be featured in Life magazine as the groom in a fairy tale wedding on Rodeo Drive, to Denise Loder, actress Hedy Lamarr’s daughter.

Flash forward 40 years, two marriages and two daughters later. Life had certainly thrown Colton a few curve balls. Never would he have imagined himself, in the spring of 2005, sitting comfortably surrounded by books at The University Club of Portland’s library room, as the Writer in Residence. Colton, author of four narrative nonfiction books, one a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now pondered whether or not he would be the guy who picks up Norman Mailer and John Irving at the Portland airport for his upcoming book festival, Wordstock 2005. From April 19-24, Wordstock Festival will be held as a benefit for Colton’s charity, the Community of Writers, commonly known as COW. 

In 1960 Larry Colton was an 18-year-old boy from the suburbs of Los Angeles. Colton says, “I had an idyllic childhood, pretty conservative, actually. I played sports and grew up near the beach. My mother was a housewife and my father was an aerospace executive. I could have gone right into professional baseball after high school but my father insisted on college.” 

Colton attended Berkeley on a full ride scholarship and majored in “beer and sorority girls” and graduated with a degree in Communications and Public Policy—two skills he would put to good use. “At that time in my life I had no notion of being a writer,” says Colton. “In fact, I had to take what we called bonehead English at Berkeley because I flunked the challenge test. Then I flunked bonehead English.”

He laughs. “I have often wanted to call that teacher’s assistant who flunked me and wave my books in front of him and say, ‘See, see!’”

It would be a couple of years in the minor leagues before Colton would actually make it to “the show.” His first major league game was against the Cincinnati Reds in May of 1968. And the first pitch was to Pete Rose. Colton says, “Yeah he got a hit off me; he doubled.” 

A week later Colton was in San Francisco having a few beers with an old friend after a game with the Giants. “I remember the night,” says Colton, “because it was the night Bobby Kennedy was shot. I came out of the bar and there was a lot of confusion and anger in the streets and just before a fight broke out I remember thinking, is the world going insane?”

There was a brawl and Colton injured his shoulder. Colton shrugs it off. “Hey I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It just happened.” 

Colton’s pitching arm was never the same and his baseball career took a slow steady slide. Without any bitterness, Colton says, “I never would have become a writer had I not been injured. I would have been Sam Malone in some bar telling stories about back when.”

For eight years he played in minor leagues and on club teams. Then he made a personal decision to leave baseball. Colton played his last season in 1970 with the Tacoma Cubs. He had a young daughter and his marriage was falling apart. He decided to start over. He moved to Portland and through the recommendation of a friend started teaching through an internship at Adams High School. “I liked English, and I really liked kids and teaching,” says Colton. “It became my passion.”   

When asked about writing, Colton says, “My friends told me I was a good letter writer. I enjoyed writing. But you know really I’m a storyteller and here’s the story. It was 1975 and there was a team called the Portland Mavericks. The owner was Bing Russell, Kurt Russell’s dad. Our country was in pretty bad shape; we were just pulling out of Viet Nam, and I was realizing baseball just didn’t mean that much to me anymore. During the summers for extra cash I painted houses. I knew I didn’t want to do that. My hair was long and I had a beard. I looked like Charlie Manson. I tried out for the Portland team and made it.”

Colton laughs. “Russell gave me a good deal—$400 a week and all the beer I could drink at a place called Peter’s Inn. I played for two weeks and then I got injured. I wrote about that experience and submitted it to the Oregonian and it was published ‘above the fold.’ That’s writer’s lingo for the top part of the page. Six months later I quit teaching to write full time.” 

Eventually Colton remarried and had another daughter. Colton went on to write hundreds of articles for magazines like Esquire, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times Magazine. In 1977 he wrote “Idol Time,” a story about the Portland Trail Blazers in their championship year. “Living on a writer’s salary, trying to support two daughters and my wife, took its toll on my second marriage and that ended,” says Colton.

In the ’80s Colton worked for Nike as a corporate writer and met his current wife Marci. “Corporate writing was not my calling, and it was right around this time that I was losing the battle with the cocktails. I quit drinking in 1988.”

He wrote a book proposal for Doubleday and in 1993 “Goat Brothers” was published. “Goat Brothers” was the story of the lives of Colton and four of his fraternity brothers from college into their 40s. “Those were tough times,” says Colton. “We went to college in 1960 in an age of innocence. When we left there was a war going on, and demonstrations, guys going to Viet Nam.  Berkeley was Berserkley. They changed the rules on us. After that book…some of those guys won’t talk to me.”

Colton says the writer who has had the most impact on his work is Truman Capote. Says Colton, “He is the guy who wrote the bellwether book for narrative nonfiction—‘In Cold Blood.’ Truman Capote puts you there, in the story.” 

Truman Capote’s influence is evident in Colton’s writing. Colton researched his third book, “Counting Coup” while living for 15 months with the Montana Crow Nation. He immersed himself in the Crow culture and the lives of the tribe’s high school girl’s basketball team during a championship year. The book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. However, the reception was not as glowing on the reservation. “I didn’t sugarcoat what I saw there. I’m not sure I’d be welcome back,” says Colton.

“You want to know why? Read the book.”

Colton is completing his current book “Ordinary Joes,” a true story about the lives of four World War II vets who survived the sinking of their submarine off the coast of Malaysia in 1943. Colton laughs, “Yep, that was due yesterday. I’m a little over my deadline.”

As important as writing is to him, Colton is also a passionate beneficent. As a teacher, he saw a need in the Portland schools for teachers to learn how to teach writing. In 1997 he founded the Community of Writers, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving student writing by improving instruction. Teachers take a much sought after 40-hour COW Professional Development course taught by published writers and receive four graduate-level credits from Oregon State University. To date, 850 teachers have taken the course. More than 21,250 students from Portland, Tigard/Tualatin and Clackamas school districts have been influenced by the program.

And Colton has raised the $2.5 million for the program over the past eight years on his own. Along the way Colton has called on many friends in the community. Tim Boyle, Columbia Sportswear CEO and longtime golfing companion of Colton, says, “Larry’s the best at raising funds and he’s very low-key about it. You’re playing a leisurely round of golf and betting a few quarters on each hole; the next thing you know you’ve committed to help fund Community of Writers on a major project…and you’ve lost the quarters as well.”

Arlene Schnitzer, an old friend of Colton’s and a dedicated supporter, sums it up: “Larry Colton’s work, from his art to serving his community, is a genuine reflection of his inner self. He has always done well and given to humankind.”

There are those who say Colton possesses great talent and he should just write. He replies, “I know I get criticized for doing this, but there is nothing like COW that I know of anywhere in the country and there is such a need for it. The rewards that I get are in stacks of emails from teachers thanking me. They say I’ve changed the way they teach. And I get it from the kids. I have boxes of their writing. Not to mention the higher test scores they’re getting. Every so often I read some of their writing and that’s enough satisfaction for me.”


BrainstormNW - April 2005

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