UO remembers Ehrman Giustina, proud Duck and benefactor

Ehrman Giustina with the Duck

Ehrman Giustina, the wood products entrepreneur whose passion was creating opportunities for future generations of Oregonians, died in Eugene on June 21. He would have turned 100 on July 19.

“The UO family has lost a special friend,” said University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill. “Ehrman leaves behind a legacy of extraordinary generosity. He gave his time, talents and resources to UO, while also giving back to our community and the state of Oregon. We grieve with his family and will be forever grateful for his wisdom.”

Born in Portland, Giustina was within a few months of graduating with a business degree from the UO when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and he joined the Navy. As one of the youngest World War II naval aviators to command his own bomber, a twin-engine PV-1 Lockheed Ventura, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal in 1944.

Ehrman and Lee GiustinaThe previous year, as soon as he had earned his wings, he married fellow UO student Marion Lee Barlow, later a 1945 journalism graduate. After the war, they settled in Eugene, where they raised five children while Ehrman helped expand the family businesses.

Though service to his country interrupted Giustina’s college career, few alumni have made a greater impact on the UO during the last seven decades, according to Paul Weinhold, executive director of the UO Foundation.

“Ehrman Giustina was a person who instantly connected with everyone he met, and he was instrumental in building the framework for the University of Oregon Foundation during his three decades as a trustee,” Weinhold said.

Giustina’s fellow trustees honored him for his singular commitment to the UO when they nominated him to become an emeritus trustee, or trustee for life, in 1998. Giustina joined the foundation board in 1966 and helped guide the university through periods of rapid growth alternating with rocky passages when economic recessions caused severe budget cutbacks.

He was also a charter member of the Lundquist College of Business advisory council, a life member of the UO Alumni Association and a member of the Arnold Bennett Hall Legacy Society.

In recognition of his exceptional service to his community and the university, he received the Pioneer Award in 1979 and a Distinguished Service Award in 1989. In 1996, UO President Dave Frohnmayer presented the Presidential Medal to Giustina and his wife, a high honor recognizing their transformational support of the university.

Giustina and his wife created an endowment that supports 40 UO students each year with Giustina Foundation Presidential Scholarships, made gifts to create endowed scholarships and professorships for the Lundquist College of Business, helped fund building projects across campus and enthusiastically backed their beloved Ducks no matter what.

After Lee died in 2009, Giustina and his brother G.H. contributed $3.5 million toward building the Ford Alumni Center, which opened in 2011. In appreciation, the university named its main gathering place the Lee Barlow Giustina Ballroom.

“Ehrman felt his business success gave him the opportunity to help others,” Weinhold said. “He and his family have been loyal supporters of the University of Oregon in many areas of campus, but the program that was most dear to him, the Giustina Foundation Presidential Scholarships, has helped change the lives of so many young Oregonians. Ehrman’s legacy at the UO will continue to build each year, as we graduate 10 Giustina Scholars and welcome 10 new ones.”

Throughout his life, Giustina’s volunteer work reflected the premium he placed not only on education, but also social service programs, the environment, the arts and his industry. His service to his community began in a big way in the 1950s when, eager to help expand the local economy beyond timber, he helped found the Eugene Industrial Development Corporation.

In addition to serving on the Pleasant Hill School Board, he held leadership roles with organizations ranging from the Eugene Water and Electric Board, United Appeal, Eugene Arts Foundation and Keep Oregon Green Foundation to the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, American Plywood Association, Oregon State Board of Forestry and the Associated Oregon Industries board. Well rounded, he also was a proud life member of the Oregon Track Club. He received the Eugene First Citizen award in 1968.

In addition to his dedication to family, community and country, Giustina will also be long remembered as an innovator in the wood products industry. Decades before it was required by federal law, the Giustina family adopted what has become known as sustainable forestry.

Instead of following the common practice of leaving logged timberland to regenerate naturally, their company began replanting seedlings right away. In 1944, the Giustina family’s efforts were recognized with one of the earliest designations as a nationally certified American Tree System tree farm.

Throughout his life, Giustina drew inspiration from the example of his parents, Erminio and Irene, and his uncles. Immigrants, they arrived in the United States in the early 1900s from a village in the Italian Dolomites with little more than the clothes on their backs. In 1917, his father and uncles bought their first small sawmill in Molalla. Working together, they went on to build one of the largest and most respected family-owned timber operations in the Northwest.

“They had guts,” Giustina said in a 1985 family biography. “They were hungry for a better life, they were highly motivated, they were consumed by the work ethic, but they also had sheer courage, to get out there and battle against really enormous odds. I’m very proud of that generation.”

With his older brother Natale “Nat” Giustina, Ehrman Giustina helped transition the lumber mills founded by their father and three uncles into what is now a pair of family-owned companies with extensive timber holdings and real estate investments.

Giustina’s survivors include sons Edward Nicholas (Nick) of Portland, Ehrman Danell (Dan) of Eugene, Gregory Lee of Thailand and Thomas Anthony of Sacramento; daughter Gennifer Giustina of Denver; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A private interment is scheduled. A memorial celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

—By Melody Ward Leslie, University Communications