A poet’s $5.5M gift to support writers

The Moore family at the Carolyn Moore Writers House. (Photo: PCC)

The Portland Community College (PCC) Foundation recently received its largest-ever gift, which is worth more than $5.5 million.

And it is a unique bequest, as well. When poet Carolyn Moore passed away, she stipulated that she wanted her property, and the funds to maintain it, to be gifted to an institution or organization to create a writers residency program in her honor.

Carolyn Moore 

A handful of colleges and organizations sent in proposals to vie for the Carolyn Moore Writers House. The Oregon community college’s foundation was chosen because of its long-term commitment to honoring Carolyn’s legacy and for the depth of writing programs available for its students.

“My aunt Carolyn had a love of learning, so PCC is a great fit for her vision,” said her niece Erica Klassen.

The estate gift includes a 2,500-square-foot log cabin on a nine-acre urban oasis off, as well as a fund to support its operations for at least 20 years. The gift is a capstone to the PCC Foundation’s first-ever comprehensive campaign, “The Campaign for Opportunity,” which will have raised more than $45 million when it concludes on December 15.

More kudos

The Writers House also holds another distinction.

“To the best of our knowledge, PCC’s Carolyn Moore Writers House will be the first such program in the nation to be hosted at a community college,” said PCC Foundation Executive Director Ann Prater. “More importantly, it will provide a bridge to student success, through literature, for students who otherwise might never have such an opportunity.”

The facility will provide a sanctuary for authors, aspiring authors and PCC faculty. Connecting students across cultural and economic divides to current, working writers will help them find inspiration and support in their writing endeavors, and a pathway to successful futures. It will also foster a community of writers at PCC and within the larger Portland metropolitan area.

Each year, PCC’s faculty members teach more than 70 classes of creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, screenwriting and editing/publishing to 1,200 students.

Programming will begin within the next year and be led by PCC’s Humanities and Arts Council, an interdisciplinary arts committee created in 2016. Council co-founder and co-chair Andrew Cohen said that he hopes to host visiting writing residents from diverse backgrounds around the country willing to engage with students in meaningful ways — whether through class visits, campus readings, mentoring student writers and more.

“There are so many strong and capable student writers here at PCC with powerful stories to tell,” Cohen said. “The Carolyn Moore Writers House will support them in shaping and sharing those stories by giving them access to inspiring and diverse authors and allowing them to imagine new possibilities for themselves in the larger community of writers and the world at-large.”

Justin Rigamonti, a faculty member and PCC’s writer-in-residence, added, “Our students are often exceptionally talented writers, but their lack of privilege also causes a lack of confidence. They don’t see themselves as worthy of the limelight or of entry to the upper echelons of Portland’s dynamic writing scene. This home will be a game-changer, providing mentoring from Residents and the confidence our emerging writers need to ascend, as creatives, as soon-to-be university students and as contributing citizens.”

About the Author

James Hill
James Hill is a communications specialist at Portland Community College in Oregon.