The board, staff, and extended family of Foundations for a Better Oregon (FBO) and The Chalkboard Project remember and celebrate Orcilia Zúñiga Forbes, PhD, and her treasured service over the past eleven years. We are immensely saddened by her recent passing.
Orcilia was an original founder of FBO/Chalkboard and has served on our board for eleven years, including serving in the role of board chairperson. She was actively engaged in our work at the time of her death, leading our future planning committee in examining the role FBO might assume in statewide economic vitality strategies.
Orcilia had deep roots in education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of New Mexico in 1960, and master’s degrees in nursing and public policy—from the Oregon Health and Sciences University in 1966, and the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health in 1972. She worked as a public school nurse, and became assistant director of health services at Portland State University before completing her doctorate in educational policy and management from the University of Oregon in 1992.
Orcilia spent a distinguished career in higher education administration for four decades. She served as dean of students and vice president for student affairs at Portland State University before returning to her alma mater in 1989, to become vice-president of student affairs and later, vice president for institutional advancement at the University of New Mexico. She returned to Oregon in 1998 to serve as vice-president of university advancement at Oregon State University, retiring in 2004.
She was also a passionate leader in philanthropy through her service as a board member and chairperson of the Meyer Memorial Trust. She took great pride in helping build the formation of FBO and the selection of public k-12 education as the group’s first project, later named The Chalkboard Project. Orcilia was an influential leader in the work that Chalkboard has undertaken, and strongly believed that investing in classroom educators through professional supports and leadership roles could change the course of student outcomes. When she saw progress, she would focus with determination on the efforts causing change, and seek further investment. She was determined about results—she asked hard questions, examined data, and believed in accountability. She set high standards and, as a result, inspired action and commitment. Her efforts came from a personal belief in the power of education to close achievement gaps for all children, and lift society to a better place.
“We have lost a true champion for children in this state,” said Sue Hildick, president of Foundations for a Better Oregon and The Chalkboard Project.“ “Orcilia used wisdom and strength to propel change. She led with grace and civility, and an iron will about investing in strategies proven to move the bar for children. It was an honor to learn from her, and to see her impact on our organization and its ability to improve the quality of life in Oregon. We will miss her guidance greatly.”
See video of Orcilia from the “Destination: Success” series, commenting on her upbringing and family. (en Español)