In Memory: Elaine Whiteley, Friend of Pacific
Elaine Whiteley, friend of Pacific, died Jan. 4, 2019, at age 86. She was born in Corvallis, Ore., where she spent most of youth. She attended Oregon State University and met her future husband, Benjamin Whiteley. The two were married a week after her graduation and raised two sons together. They lived in Ohio for three years while Ben served in the Air Force before moving back to their home state in Oregon.
Ben Whiteley, longtime president of the insurance firm The Standard and chairman of manufacturing firm Greenbrier Cos., eventually became chairman of the Pacific University board of trustees. He and Elaine became generous donors to Pacific. Among other things, they endowed the annual Whiteley lecture series, which brings distinguished guest speakers to campus.
Following Ben’s retirement, the couple traveled extensively and enjoyed yearly visits to Hawai’i. Dedicated to service, Elaine was deeply interested in the arts, education, and philanthropy. She was active in the Portland Civic Theatre Guild, the Portland Opera Guild and other organizations. In her PEO Sisterhood chapter, she served in most capacities of officer, including five years as president. She was also an active member of Vermont Hills United Methodist Church for almost 60 years, serving in many lay leadership positions. She and Ben also supported Portland Center Stage, where until Ben's death in 2017 they held a record as the only season ticket holders to have seen every production since the company's inception.
She loved books and birds, especially raptors, and had a green thumb with orchids, gathering many “orphans” and coaxing them to bloom again. She was a strong, accomplished and loving person who had many friends, including several whom she had known since early childhood. She was an empathetic listener whose concern was matched by her generosity. In November 2016, she and Ben were honored with the Vollum Award for Lifetime Philanthropic Achievement, recognizing their 40 years of philanthropic leadership.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Ben; and her brother, Wayne. She is survived by her sons, Stephen and Ben; and several nieces and nephews.