Donors Fuel Possibilities

Donors Greg and Pete Houser make college dreams come true through the Houser Scholarship.

About five years ago, Greg Houser and his with his brother, Pete, began discussing ways to give back to Lincoln High School. “We’re Lincoln alums, so we wanted to find a way to honor Lincoln for all that we benefited from, in terms of lessons learned, experiences we had and lifelong friendships that we made,” Houser recalls. For the Houser brothers, Lincoln wasn’t the only institution that made a powerful impact on their lives. They grew up at the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC), taking swim lessons at the club, and playing baseball and Pop Warner football for MAC teams. While Pete moved to San Francisco, MAC has remained an important part of Greg’s life. The brothers found a way to honor both of those institutions at once, creating the annual Houser Scholarship, which benefits a student at Lincoln and is administered through the Multnomah Athletic Foundation – where Greg served as president from 2010-2011 – MAC’s partner in community outreach. “We were able to memorialize our gratitude for Lincoln, and we were able to use the resources of the Foundation, which has the experience, policies and mechanisms in place to vet candidates, make selections and be able to handle all of the details,” Houser says. “It’s a great marriage that allows us to be a part of the process.”

More than just money

The Houser Scholarship is based on need, merit, and school and athletic participation, and provides $10,000 to each recipient for up to two years of college tuition. It also offers an opportunity for scholars to interact with Greg and Pete, which has been beneficial for both parties. “I didn’t want to be intrusive, but I wanted to offer myself as a mentor, and as a contact in terms of helping them progress, whether it be with internships or job interviews or contacts,” Greg says. “These kids are so talented and so hard-working that they really don’t need much. I helped one of the recipients with an interview with a good friend of mine who runs a local corporation. That was really gratifying.”

Student perspective

Will Holland was the inaugural recipient of the Houser Scholarship in 2016. After a year at the University of San Francisco, he discovered his calling – environmental studies – while also discovering that campus life at a largely commuter school wasn’t a great fit for him. He’s now thriving as a junior at Gonzaga University, where he’s an active member of campus groups such as Fossil Free Gonzaga and plays and referees in intramurals throughout the year.

“College started out to be a bit rockier than expected. However, I’ve become an independent mind, discovering where my values lie and who I am as a person,” Holland says. “Transferring was one of the harder decisions I’ve had to make to date but choosing to do so opened the door to my own self-discovery, and ultimately positioned me in a place where I can succeed and better those around me to the best of my ability.”

Annika Steele was the Houser scholar in 2017 and also chose Gonzaga. Steele had a tricky choice to make. As an elite runner, several schools offered her a chance to compete. But with a history of injuries, Steele says she needed to find a place where “I could still be successful and happy if my ability to run was taken away.” Gonzaga fit the bill. Even after injuries derailed her college running career, she’s still found success. “However hard it’s been for me to leave this sport and the world of competitive athletics, the forced change has allowed me to meet new people and investigate other parts of my life, trying to find things I can feel the same passion for,” she says. “I’ve been able to shift my mindset from pure competition to being active for my own happiness, and just doing what brings me joy.”

Another recent Houser scholar, Libby Lazzara, is a freshman at Colorado College. “Thus far college has been a roller coaster of new experiences and learning to adapt to situations, both in the classroom and on the court, that I have never faced before,” she says. “As an athlete on the volleyball team I learned more from this season about myself and what it means to be a teammate than any other time in my athletic career.”

The Housers keep up with each student’s progress through periodic email updates and an annual winter gathering. “I had lunch with the recipients in January. It was so enjoyable and gratifying; just to see the quality of these young adults and how well they’re progressing. It confirmed what great young people these kids are. They truly are great ambassadors for Lincoln High School and the Multnomah Athletic Foundation,” Greg says.

How it works

The Foundation team is dedicated to making giving easy, efficient and meaningful. Whether you are looking to volunteer or make a charitable gift, the Foundation has the knowledge and tools to ensure you get the most of your giving experience. “Connecting passionate, community minded people is what we do best. Let us help you achieve the greatest possible impact in the areas you care about most,” says Lisa Bendt, Foundation’s Executive Director.

The Multnomah Athletic Foundations administers eight scholarship programs that distribute over $125,000 annually to over 40 recipients. That includes the MAC Scholar Athlete program, which awards $1,500 to a student from every high school in the region each year, along with the Houser and Loprinzi Scholarships; the Fay Sasser Scholarships for MAC employees; and several sport-specific scholarships for MAC athletes. The MAF Scholarship Committee and teams of trained scholarship readers ensure there is a rigorous and fair process for selecting students for each award. Also, utilizing an online application system increases access to all eligible student athletes.

“The mechanics have been extremely easy. We worked with the Foundation to set up guidelines, and the kids that we get through the process are unbelievable. It’s a seamless process,” Houser says. “We’re working to build up an endowment that will eventually be self-sustaining.”

To learn more about donation and support opportunities with the foundation visit our giving page!