Kay Dean Toran '64 | University of Portland

Kay Dean Toran '64

Kay Toran is the president and CEO of Volunteers of America Oregon, a social services organization devoted to improving the lives of Oregon’s children, families, and senior citizens. Previously she was director of Oregon’s Office for Services to Children and Families, the state’s child protective services agency, where she did a job of immense responsibility and stress with calm grace; she has also served Oregon as state administrator of purchasing, and director of affirmative action, among other creative labors. Kay has also served Portland and Oregon on a countless number of boards and committees to which she has devoted many thousands of hours of her quiet wisdom and counsel, among them the Oregon Community Foundation, Providence Health and Services, Portland State University, and University of Portland’s Board of Regents.

Similarly an account of her awards and honors would go on for a week; notable among them are the White Rose Award from the March of Dimes, Portland State University’s Alumna of the Year Award, and a City of Portland Day of Appreciation for Kay Toran, as promulgated by the Office of the Mayor of the City.

Kay earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Portland in 1964 and her master’s degree in social work from Portland State University, and then set out on a career in public service that included service as assistant to Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh and many years of creative labor on behalf of her fellow Oregonians. In 1999 she was named president and CEO of Volunteers of America Oregon, an organization that has drawn national attention for its efficiency (88 cents of every dollar donated goes straight to serving constituents) and creative ideas and range.

“The word safety summons many meanings, both personal and universal,” she wrote recently. “A child’s feeling of security in a place where he or she is cared for and nurtured; the healing and empowerment that comes from rebuilding a life free from domestic violence or addiction; the pride and wellbeing a community feels when its streets are safe…But for many in our community, safety is not a certainty. We continue to see  troubling statistics about how common domestic violence is in our community, and with the unemployment rate in Oregon hovering near ten percent, the times remain challenging to the families we serve. We are faced with greater need for our services at a time when our resources are severely stretched. But we are fortunate to be able to meet these needs by maintaining strong partnerships and collaborative relationships with other service providers in our community…”And by, as she has often said with her usual firm dignity, education.

The University celebrates Kay Toran today with an honorary doctorate not only for a lifetime of hard and creative work on behalf of the least fortunate of her fellow citizens, but for her quiet and graceful insistence on education as the best way to open endless possibilities to lives that seemed constrained and confined.