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Aug. 9, 2022

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$5M donated to Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools

Estate of Edstrom, Lamberton gives largest single gift

By , Columbian staff writer

Pamela Edstrom and Joseph Lamberton were never ones to broadcast their philanthropy.

Close friends, even family members, rarely knew the details of the couple’s history of donations to schools in the Vancouver area over the last few decades.

Today, Edstrom and Lamberton’s legacy of generosity is a secret no longer — as the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools announced last week that they had received a $5 million donation from the family’s estate.

The gift, which was intended to remove poverty-related barriers and provide mentoring opportunities for young students with developmental obstacles, is the largest single donation in the foundation’s history.

Edstrom, who died in 2017, saw a long, fruitful career as one of the pioneering faces of Microsoft’s public relations. She went on to co-found Waggener Edstrom Communications, which became one of the largest public relations firms in the world.

Lamberton, who died last year, was a Portland native who led a successful career in steelwork and construction. His company, Action Steel, designed and built the iconic Oregon Convention Center — the dual towers that now shape Portland’s skyline.

Upon settling down together in Salmon Creek in the 1990s, the couple searched for a new passion.

Mark Goodman, Lamberton’s son-in-law, said the couple’s interest in education was sparked by one of their neighbors, who was a teacher.

“Their neighbor was telling them that some of the kids at school didn’t have winter coats,” Goodman said. “Joe heard that, he thought ‘That’s not right.’ The next day, he went out and bought a bunch of coats, brought them down to the school and told the teachers to start handing them out to whoever needed them.”

After seeing how their own grandchildren in Vancouver benefited from early learning support, the two became big believers in the power of early education. They went on to work with the foundation and the district to launch initiatives with the intent to remove socioeconomic barriers to learning at a young age.

Goodman said the couple’s selflessness was nothing short of inspirational.

“They really wanted to make an impact in the community and help these kids. It was really under the radar. They never took any credit for it,” he said. “Most of the people close to the family didn’t know they were doing it.”

“They were both big believers in that you can do what you can’t, you shouldn’t have limits placed on you. That was their intention, to let people achieve whatever they want to achieve.”

The Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors recently named its Early Childhood Evaluation Center — which provides assessment services for children aged 3 through 5 experiencing developmental delays — after the couple in recognition of their years of donations and support.

“Their extraordinary investment in our community reinforces the transformational power of education to change lives,” said Nada Wheelock, the executive director of the foundation in a press release last week.

“Pam Edstrom and Joe Lamberton’s gift will provide direct support to Vancouver students and VPS programs for generations to come.”

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