Gretchen Kafoury Biographical Statement
Gretchen Kafoury was born and raised in Walla Walla, Washington. She graduated from Whitman College in 1963 with a BA in Music. Following graduation, she spent two years in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1964 to 1966. Following her work in Iran, she taught English as a Second Language at Grant High School and Portland State University from 1966-1971. From 1971-1975, she served on the Metro 4-C Council and as a lobbyist for several organizations. In 1975, she began working as an EEO consultant.
During the late sixties and early seventies, Kafoury was active in volunteer political activities. She worked on Robert Kennedy’s presidential and Wayne Morse’s US Senate campaigns in 1968. She helped found Oregon NOW in 1970 and the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. She worked on Barbara Robert’s gubernatorial campaign in 1974.
In 1977, when her husband successfully ran for the State Senate, she ran for and won his vacant House seat. She served the Oregon Legislature as State Representative from inner NE and SE Portland from 1977 until 1982. Her key issues during her tenure were human resources including mental health, health care, domestic violence and nurse practitioners.
She was elected as a Multnomah County Commissioner in 1985, serving NE Portland. Her work in the commission continued her legislative priorities of health care and mental health care while adding criminal justice, homelessness and poverty, and teen health centers.
In 1991, she was elected to the Portland City Council, where she served until 1998. Her priorities during her service to the city included fair housing, community development, civil rights, and the arts.
Kafoury currently is an instructor at Portland State University’s (PSU) College of Urban and Public Affairs, Hatfield School of Government. She has taught classes related to homelessness, poverty, and community development since 1999.
Kafoury has received numerous awards during her career, including Honorary Nurse Practitioner (1979), Honorary Social Worker (1981), Lucille Hart, First Recipient (1982), Whitman College Alumna of Merit (1991), Community Development Network (1997), ACLU Human Rights Award (1998), Skanner Newspaper Award (1998), National Alliance to End Homelessness, Public Sector Recipient (1999), Spirit of Portland Award (2001) and the PSU Alumni Award (2003).