Family’s years of dedication to University of Puget Sound’s success inspires the June 6 dedication of  Oppenheimer Hall

TACOMA, Wash. – Trustee Deanna ’80 and John ’80 Oppenheimer P’11, P’14, are being honored by the University of Puget Sound in recognition of their lifelong service and philanthropy.

In grateful acknowledgment of their dedication to advancing Puget Sound’s mission and their support of the $125 million One [of a Kind] comprehensive campaign, Puget Sound will rename one of its Tudor Gothic-style student residences Oppenheimer Hall. A dedication ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday, June 6, in conjunction with Summer Reunion Weekend.

Originally opened in 1958, the ivy-clad, coed residence, currently known as University Hall, overlooks the college’s North Quad, a popular student recreational area on the northeast corner of campus, adjacent to Collins Memorial Library and Jones Hall, the first building constructed on the current campus site, in 1923.

The Oppenheimer, who graduated from the University of Puget Sound and went on to high-profile careers in banking and hospitality, has been actively engaged in alumni since the early 1980s. Their contributions of ideas and experience to key strategies and their gifts to the campaign have helped drive the success of the college’s Defining Moments strategic plan and the campus master plan.

Since 2003 Puget Sound’s master plan has guided efforts to enhance the beautiful campus and provide an inspiring learning environment that encourages students to explore and exchange ideas, pursue a lifetime of curiosity, and engage in creative pursuits, civic and global service, and healthy lifestyles. The Oppenheimer are passionate advocates of Puget Sound’s intensive “24/7 living and learning” ethic, which quickly shows results in students’ collaborative and innovative endeavors and the college’s growing national reputation.  

“Deanna and John have been absolutely exemplary in their support of Puget Sound—through their invaluable leadership, selfless service, and generous philanthropy in support of our students and our mission,” said Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas. “Puget Sound’s impressive scholarly achievements and national reputation owe a great deal to Deanna and John, who have taken time from their hectic careers to help the young graduates coming up behind them. The dedication of Oppenheimer Hall is one small token of our gratitude, which extends far beyond what words can say.”

The dedication of Oppenheimer Hall on Saturday, June 6, will allow alumni attendees also to enjoy Summer Reunion Weekend, which, this year, will bring together many of the alumni, living and working around the globe, who graduated alongside Deanna and John Oppenheimer 35 years ago.

The dedication ceremony will be held at 4 p.m., at the residence hall, immediately prior to a celebratory Reunion Dinner and Alumni Awards event. Invitees will include alumni, university leaders, Residence Life staff, campus members, and friends and family of the Oppenheimer.

“Since John and I first met on this campus, almost four decades ago, we have had an ever-growing appreciation of how much we gained and took with us from our Puget Sound education,” said Deanna Oppenheimer. “The dedication of the faculty, the staff, and the university leadership make us proud to be their partners in providing students with a powerful liberal arts education, the latest technology and facilities, and an innovative and interdisciplinary curriculum that produces creative global citizens. We thank everyone on campus for the naming of this building in our family’s honor.”    

Deanna and John Oppenheimer both grew up in Idaho, where their fathers were good friends. After graduating high school, each chose separately to attend Puget Sound, attracted by the strong intellectual environment and friendly atmosphere. John Oppenheimer told Seattle Business magazine in 2011, “It took me seven years to persuade her to marry me.”

When their own children, Jeni ’11 and James Oppenheimer ’14, grew up, they too attended Puget Sound. Jeni double majored in English and international political economy, and James majored in economics. Both were highly engaged in leadership and service activities on campus.

Since leaving Puget Sound, both Deanna and John have taken time from their entrepreneurial careers to return to their alma mater. The pair have created endowed funds for scholarships and student activities and have inspired trustee engagement with capital giving and the annual fund. As the parents of two Puget Sound graduates, they also helped the university envision and execute a reinvigorated student recruitment plan.

Deanna Oppenheimer served a seven-year term as chair of the trustees' board and continues as an active board member today. She was the first woman and first Puget Sound graduate to lead the college in this role, and she helped guide the creation of the strategic plan and 20-year campus master plan. Deanna consistently named one of the most influential women in banking, founded CameoWorks in 2012, an advisory firm that links West Coast innovation with global business in New York, London, and Paris. Prior to this, she served as chief executive of London-based Barclays Bank’s Western European retail and business operations for six years. She serves on corporate boards spanning two continents and has held many community roles.

John Oppenheimer is chief executive and founder of Columbia Hospitality in Seattle, an international consulting firm and owner of boutique hotels, conference centers, golf courses, and unique venues. He is the founder of the event planning group CRG Events. It is a founding partner of the cruise ship terminals company Cruise Terminals of America and hotel investor Seattle Hotel Group, which developed the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Seattle. He has served on and chaired numerous private and civic boards.

Daughter Jeni is now living in Washington, D.C., employed by Global Impact, a nonprofit that builds partnerships and raises funds to meet humanitarian needs worldwide. James is living in Chicago and is in the Rotational Development Program at asset management company Northern Trust. Both continue to be engaged with Puget Sound as involved alumni. James was recognized in June 2014 with the college’s Young Alumni Service Award.

Deanna and John Oppenheimer, along with friends and family, will attend the June 6 dedication of Oppenheimer Hall, a building housing more than 70 students, who share spaces including study rooms, a kitchen, television lounge, and piano room. Combined with the fun and memories of Summer Reunion Weekend, the dedication of Oppenheimer Hall will provide a lasting legacy for a family whose lives eloquently demonstrate the very goals that faculty and staff seek to inspire in the remarkable young people who come to Puget Sound for a transformative educational experience.

Press photos of University Hall/Oppenheimer Hall can be downloaded from
Photos on page:  Top right: The building to be named Oppenheimer Hall; Above left: One of the entrances to the hall; Above right: A detail from the 1958 building.

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