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Concordia University raises more than $355,000 at ninth annual gala

School presents Governor Victor Atiyeh Leadership in Education Award to Swati Adarkar

/EIN News/ -- Portland, OR, Feb. 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- It was a thought-provoking evening that was anything but common, even though the keynote speaker calls himself that.

Concordia University held its ninth annual Governor Victor Atiyeh Leadership in Education Awards gala Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the new Hyatt Hotel in Portland. Children’s Institute CEO, president and co-founder Swati Adarkar accepted the award, given in recognition of her work promoting early childhood development and education.

The dinner drew 530 education, business and government leaders. Through sponsorships, a paddle raise and other donations, Oregon’s largest private, nonprofit university raised more than $355,000. The funds will support Concordia student scholarships and the university’s groundbreaking 3toPhD® collaborative model for education, which co-locates Concordia’s College of Education with Faubion School in N.E. Portland. 

The array of local dignitaries at the gala included past award recipients Ken Thrasher, Kay Toran, and,

Marcia Randall, as well as Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Motivational speaker Kimberely Dixon, 3toPhD co-chair, served as emcee.

HotChalk served as the gala’s lead sponsor. Other sponsors included Orbis Education, Stoel Rives LLP, Gloria and Ross Edwards, The Jessie F. Richardson Foundation, CCL-Concepts in Community Living, and Pacific Office Automation. 

Impact of Scholarships

Adarkar and Concordia senior Antonio Martinez both told the crowd about the huge impact college scholarships had on them. 

Adarkar, her grandfather, father and mother all received scholarships, which brought her family from India to the United States and shaped its future, she stated. 

Martinez had at one point worried he might not be able to finish college, but a timely scholarship is now making that possible, he said.


Challenging The Audience

Keynote speaker Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. (better known as Common) and Adarkar challenged the audience to dig deep and work hard for children and education.

“As we begin this new decade, let’s challenge ourselves to be even bolder in our actions and our generosity, recognizing that education, in fact, is our greatest hope to transform children’s lives, shape our future generations and create a more just and equitable society,” said Adarkar.

Common -- an actor, author, activist and hip-hop artist -- sprinkled some rap into his remarks. His mother is a former teacher and principal. She introduced him to writing, literature and self-discipline by assigning him weekly book reports. This sparked his interest as a teenager in a career as a writer, music artist, actor and storyteller, he said.

The film, television and recording star’s mother also taught him the importance of helping others less fortunate. This led him to starting his own foundation to support children and to open a charter arts school, he said.

Common quoted a number of people in his speech, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., authors Kahlil Gibran and Marianne Williamson, New York Times columnist David Brooks, U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and even, lastly, a San Quentin prisoner on death row who told him, “I like what you’re doing. But make sure you give back.”

Common concluded his half-hour speech with a quote from his hero, Muhammad Ali: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

“So, to all my educators, our rent is due,” Common added.

About the Atiyeh Leadership in Education Award

The Atiyeh Award is given annually to one or more philanthropic, business, civic, and political leaders for their unique and significant contributions to improving education in the Pacific Northwest or beyond. Named after Oregon’s highly esteemed former Governor Victor Atiyeh for his leadership and lifelong passion for education, this award is presented to a changemaker: a leader who – through professional, philanthropic, business, civic, and/or political actions and advocacy – has profoundly improved the odds for our children to succeed in school and in life.

About Concordia University

Concordia University-Portland was founded in 1905 as a Lutheran university with a mission of preparing leaders for the transformation of society. The university serves more than 6,000 students on its campuses and online, through its College of Education, College of Health & Human Sciences, School of Management, and Concordia University School of Law in Boise, Idaho. For more about Concordia University, visit and


Elizabeth Loulan
Concordia University Portland
(503) 280 8550