Steve Percy, President of Portland State University
Since taking on his permanent position in 2020, Percy has guided the university through several impactful and challenging initiatives – among them was an emphasis on equity and racial justice.
Focusing on equity has led to several important achievements, such as revamping campus safety measures and creating a racial equity fund.
Early Life and Education
Percy has spent four decades working in higher education, first at the University of Virginia and later at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is a passionate supporter of student access issues and his research interests include urban politics, disability rights policy and university-community engagement.
Percy built his success through his natural ability to connect with people and listen empathetically, which he brought into his role as president of Portland State, helping develop new degrees and partnerships while approaching campus challenges with an equity lens.
His dedication to racial justice led PSU to become the first school in Oregon to establish a fund dedicated to supporting research on structural racism. Additionally, Time to Act, an ambitious three-year plan aiming at increasing racial equity at PSU was also put in place by him.
Steven Percy has been actively engaged in higher education for over four decades. Beginning his career as a professor and eventually moving into leadership roles at institutions such as Virginia’s University of Virginia and Wisconsin Milwaukee – Milwaukee before serving as Dean of Portland State’s College of Urban and Public Affairs before being named president in 2020.
Throughout his tenure, the school faced challenges such as declining enrollment due to pandemic influenza. Yet they remained committed to student success and community engagement.
He oversaw the establishment of Urban and Public Affairs as an undergraduate major at OU, made racial justice one of its top strategic priorities, leading to Time to Act and Racial Equity Fund being implemented as initiatives of his presidency.
Achievement and Honors
Steve Percy has made it his goal to foster vibrant connections between universities and the communities they serve. An expert in public policy, administrative ethics, and urban politics, Steve is adept at helping community leaders to come up with creative solutions for issues that affect daily lives.
He has also focused on issues of entrepreneurship and sustainable development. He currently sits on both the Ross School of Business Corporate Advisory Board as well as being an External Advisor of Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, serving on Cleveland State University Foundation trustee board as past president.
Percy attributes his success at Portland State to his strong commitment to equity and diversity. In 2020 he launched Time to Act: an action plan for racial justice; later that same year he created the Racial Equity Fund at PSU so as to invest in research that supports his efforts in this regard.
Steve Percy has long been a supporter of Barnet FC, and it is said he has not missed one home game since joining the club in 1968 – an astounding testament to his dedication.
He became intrigued with urban-serving universities through his time at UWM, eventually leading him to Penn State where he currently serves as leader-in-residence and is committed to community engagement and research.
Current positions held include Chairman of Wavefront Technology Solutions Inc. and Director at Omnova Solutions (formerly Gencorp). He previously held these roles from 1996-1999 as CEO for BP America Inc. before taking up Senior Vice President position with Phillips Petroleum from 2000 to 2001 and becoming member of Losonoco’s Board of Directors as well.
He excelled in several fields and industries throughout his lifetime, most notably by creating the GIF file format that allowed slower modem connections to send 8-bit images over the internet. In addition, he built several compilers and run-time systems.
He was an acclaimed musician, songwriter, bassist and occasional keyboardist, best known as one of the founding members of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden with an instantly recognisable bass style found on their albums “Run to the Hills” and “The Trooper.”
He enjoyed an exemplary home life with luxurious facilities including an 11,200 square foot home complete with tennis court, wine cellar and other features. In addition, he often appeared as a guest on numerous talk shows.