First generation undergraduate students have a new reason to consider teaching as a career. Prospective  students in the teacher education program at PSU who are the first in their family to receive an undergraduate degree may now apply to The Renaissance Foundation Graduate School of Education (GSE) Scholarship Program. The scholarship, funded by The Renaissance Foundation (TRF) and its co-trustees Irving Levin and Stephanie Fowler, will assist a minimum of 10 GSE students annually with $4,000 to defray tuition and fees. The new scholarship program is specific to GSE education programs where graduates will be working in classrooms and focuses on increasing the overall diversity of teacher candidates. This innovative program also provides financial incentives to encourage graduates to make a career in the teaching profession.

“It is a true pleasure to partner with Irving and Stephanie,” says GSE Dean Randy Hitz. “They understand the enormous and positive difference a great teacher can make in students’ lives. I was the first person in my family to attend college and I know first-hand the importance of financial and moral support. This scholarship can provide the same inspiration to first generation students who didn’t think they could get a master’s degree and become an excellent teacher.”

Education is not a new interest for Fowler and Levin who have donated generously to education, social justice, environmental, and historic preservation causes locally, nationally, and internationally since 2000. Recipients in the metro area include Portland Community College, Portland Schools Foundation, OHSU, The Children’s Institute, and I Have a Dream Foundation. The couple has also sponsored close to 70 PSU undergraduate students, focusing on those who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college and have financial need.

“Education is our primary focus, because it is the most potent tool for social and economic mobility,” says Levin, who found himself in a unique position as a philanthropist and investment angel after selling his first company. He is currently executive chairman of Genesis Financial Solutions and chairman of Digital Divide Data, an international social enterprise. He has served on the boards of several organizations, including PSU Foundation, Providence St. Vincent Medical Foundation, Oregon Children’s Foundation, and The Children’s Institute.

Stephanie Fowler is a Portland journalist and psychotherapist. She graduated from Princeton University and has a master’s in counseling psychology from Lewis & Clark. She has a background in print and broadcast journalism, having worked at the The Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and KGW and KOIN television stations. She is currently on the Oregon Board of The Nature Conservancy, the World Affairs Council advisory board, and is a trustee of Lewis and Clark College.

Why start a teacher education scholarship at PSU? Because in all of their experiences, they believe that education can have the most profound impact on an individual’s life. “Stephanie often says that it takes only one relationship to inspire a young student,” says Levin. “We have seen the truth of that with many kids in programs we have supported, and we have seen how they resonate with adults who share their background and really understand their situation. If this scholarship program can incent first generation college graduates to consider a teaching career, it is an investment well worth making. And it seems logical to us to make it in partnership with PSU’s GSE, whose leadership shares this value, and has worked with us to design this program.”

The couple was honored by PSU on October 9, at the prestigious Simon Benson Awards for their continued generosity to students at PSU.

“Irving and Stephanie generously support many important educational, social service and environmental causes,” says President Wim Wiewel. “In all their giving, they become deeply involved personally, adding even more value to their gift. Their previous scholarship support for PSU students has made the recipients far more successful than other students. They are now extending this support to another group of students whose success is important not just to the students themselves, but for all whose lives they will touch as teachers. We are so grateful to Stephanie and Irving for their gift.”

Applications for this scholarship are currently being developed; if you are eligible and would like to be notified when the application is posted please send your request to


The Renaissance Foundation GSE Scholarship Program is set up as a challenge gift. The GSE must provide an additional $20K annually to fund the program. You can become a donor to this program and support first generation teacher education students! For more information or to make a pledge, contact Jaymee Jacoby, 503-725-4789 or