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New Scholarship Honors Senator Avel Louise Gordly

$1M goal to support black women graduates of Oregon high schools

Senator Avel Louise Gordly


February is the birthday month of former Oregon state senator Avel Louise Gordly. Two devoted friends of Gordly’s have marked the occasion by establishing a college scholarship fund named in her honor dedicated to Black women graduates of Oregon high schools. Carmen Thompson and Patricia Schechter, both historians, approached the Oregon Community Foundation in 2021 with the idea. “I had a positive working relationship with OCF through covid mitigation grants for students that the Black Studies Department at Portland State University advocated for,” notes Thompson. “Ethan Johnson and I successfully secured relief for our students,” she explains. “OCF really got the racial disparities in the pandemic’s impact.” “The time is now,” states Schechter. “Given all that Avel has accomplished and the powerful upsurge for racial justice expressed in Portland since 2020, this scholarship had to happen.”

Avel Gordly was born in Portland and graduated from Girls Polytechnic High School and then Portland State University. She held important professional positions in the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Urban League of Portland, and the American Friends Service Committee. She was a major force within the activist group, the Black United Front, which pushed for Oregon’s divestment from Apartheid. In 1991, Gordly was appointed to the legislature and in 1996 became the first Black woman elected to the Oregon State Senate, representing NE Portland. The Gordly Center for Healing at Oregon Health and Sciences University was established to provide culturally competent mental health care to diverse patients in recognition of Gordly’s work on this issue.


The Gordly Scholarship provides four years of financial support to an African American female graduate of an Oregon high school. Funds can be used at any institution of higher education in the state, including community college. The scholarship also supports attendance at any of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. The first award of approximately $2,500 will be made in the spring of 2023. Students can apply through the StudentAid.Gov website. More information for students and links are on the Scholarship Blog. The application deadline is March 1st.

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