Community Mourns Loss of Longtime Supporter Ken Austin

Ken Austin with his wife

The university community lost one of its biggest benefactors and dearest friends with the death of Ken Austin on May 1, 2019. Austin and his wife Joan, who preceded him in death in 2013, were consistent givers to George Fox through scholarships, gifts, the donation of land and, since 1987, the funding of an annual performance by the Oregon Symphony on campus.

In 2002, the family pledged 23 acres of land on the corner of Crestview and Villa roads that was developed into the Austin Sports Complex, home to the university’s soccer and women’s lacrosse programs. More recently, in 2014, the Austins’ 15-acre plot of land and 7,000-square-foot home atop Parrett Mountain was donated for the purpose of creating a place for contemplation, reflection and prayer – the Hy Vista Retreat Center. Their legacy is also reflected on campus in the form of a flower garden in front of the Stevens Center, dedicated to the memory of Joan’s mother Esther Zemke.

Ken, 87, also served the university as a member of its board of trustees since the mid-1980s (most recently as an honorary member), and his counsel and friendship was treasured by President Robin Baker, who met with him regularly.

Cofounders of A-dec – one of the largest dental equipment manufacturers in the world – the Austins were known throughout the region for their philanthropic gifts to educational, civic and community causes. In addition to George Fox, they supported his alma mater, Oregon State University, as well as Newberg schools, the Oregon Symphony, the Special Olympics, the Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry, and countless other charitable organizations throughout the state of Oregon.