Patricia Bowers Horter 1945 and '70

bachelor of science interior architecture ’45
master of science arts education ’70

Patricia Bowers Horter: artist, entrepreneur, educator

With a soft smile and a voice full of warm affection, Candace Horter describes her mother, Patricia Bowers Horter, as a “creative thinker, a nature fanatic—she could see beauty all around her, in the everyday. …”

Patricia Horter loved poetry, painting, creating sculpture, and observing the world around her, Candace Horter says.  Her mother’s life was defined by the enjoyment and appreciation of art, her whimsical and lighthearted poetry, nourishing friendships, and helping those around her. 

Horter was a remarkable woman, by any standard. Born July 18, 1922, in Spokane, Washington, her family of five children and two parents were hit hard by the Great Depression, forced to relocate to Oakland, California, and then to Portland, Oregon, in search of work for her father, a banker. Eventually, her parents relocated the family to an Idaho ranch. There Patricia and her siblings helped her parents homestead the land, including growing all their own food.

Above: An oil painting by Patricia Bowers Horter, Untitled, that hangs in the office of her daughter Candace Horter at the UO in Portland.

Being raised during the Depression gave Horter a good sense of how she wanted to live her life and what would become important to her in the years that followed. Her firsthand experience with farm life and self-sufficiency would prompt her to seek a future free from the confines of the traditional role of women in the household and spark an independent, nonconformist streak influencing her entire life.

After her family moved to a farm in Goshen, Oregon, in the late 1930s, Horter graduated from Springfield High School and embarked upon obtaining a degree in interior architecture from the University of Oregon. That degree—her first bachelor’s degree—together with her enthusiasm for drafting and the need for women to contribute to the military production effort, allowed her to find work during World War II in an aeronautical company in Pasadena, California. Working as a highly skilled draftsperson, she thrived, developing a vibrant social life and connections in the busy working region.

When the war ended in 1945, Horter transitioned from a woman engineer working as a draftsperson to employment as a model and bridal consultant for Best & Co. in Boston. Subsequently she worked as an airline stewardess serving several major airlines and traveling extensively throughout the world. While flying in Alaska, she met photographer and filmmaker Don Horter; the couple married in 1951. Throughout their lives together, Don loved photographing Patricia in the woods and wilds of Alaska and Oregon.

Don and Patricia had four children. The family relocated initially to Seattle and, in 1954, to Eugene.

historic poster
Above: A historic poster shows Patricia Bowers Horter (main photo) wading in the waters of Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park; at least one billboard, at Katmai, still featured this photo in 2014.

Patricia Bowers Horter modeled often for her husband, Don Horter, a professional photographer and filmmaker in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska who worked with the National Park Service to popularize sport fishing in Alaska. His Alaskan films range from “Fish On” (1948) to “Angler's Paradise” (1959).  Among his Pacific Northwest films are “White Peril” (1956), which detailed a snow patrol on duty in Washington’s Cascade Mountains; “The Columbia: River of Planned Destiny” (1960); and “Of Ships and Cargo” (1960), a promotional film about the Portland docks. Don’s son, Eric, started working with him on films in 1959.

By the late 1960s, Patricia knew she wanted to build upon her strong foundation in the arts and her enjoyment of creative pursuits, and hoped to mentor others and be more involved in education. With that in mind, she enrolled in what was then the Department of Art Education at UO, where she was awarded a master of arts in art education in 1970. The same year Don died and she was suddenly a widow with children still at home. She found herself in high demand as a special education teacher for the primary grades, working in schools in Lakeview and Cottage Grove, and then joining the staff as an administrator at a remote school in Fort Yukon, Alaska.

By 1974 she had moved to Barrow, Alaska. For the next several years she worked as an administrator in the Anchorage School District in the gifted-student education programs until her dedication and work set her apart and she was asked to join the federal Office of Gifted and Talented in Washington, D.C. Realizing more education would contribute to her career goals, she enrolled in the University of Connecticut to study gifted and talented student education practices.

Many years in this specialized education field culminated with Patricia returning to Eugene to establish the Aerie Academy in 1981, a private school dedicated to gifted and talented young people. For almost a decade she directed this school while simultaneously tutoring, mentoring, and counseling gifted children and adults throughout the Willamette Valley region.  She retired from formal work at the age of 75.

Patricia Horter lived a life full of academic achievement and dedication while remaining independent and raising a family on her own. She valued education and understood the relationship between enjoying academic study in areas one finds truly captivating and turning those interests into careers where one is able to support a family. Her interest in the arts and design and her love of creative expression infused everything she did from her earliest career as a draftsperson during the war effort to advising gifted individuals on the importance of creative pursuits and lifelong learning.

She is remembered by her family as a creative thinker and as a woman who would paint or write poetry for hours at a time. She is also remembered as an independent nonconformist who saw possibility and opportunity in times of bleakness, whether during war or following the death of her husband or at the unexpected and tragic passing of her only son, Mark Horter. Her ability to forge together a brilliant career that was inspired and fortified by her education at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts is testimony to her resilience and capability.

As a mother, a career-minded woman, an artist, an entrepreneur, and as an educator, Patricia Bowers Horter exemplified the life of a fiercely self-reliant woman motivated by an unyielding positivity and her own refusal to see limitations. She saw the joy and light in that which she dedicated herself to: her family, her art and poetry, and her work. She faced adversity in her life, family tragedy, and unexpected demands. She confronted all of it with a sense of mindful solitude, a desire to have a meaningful impact on those around her, a joie de vivre, and, as her now-adult children remark, “always with a positive way of thinking.” An extraordinary woman, Patricia Bowers Horter exemplifies an ingenious life. By her own design, her path was never straight but beautifully twisted and turned, incorporating an appreciation of education melded into a life of experience and productivity that she put to use to…. make good.

Patricia Bowers Horter’s daughter, Candace Horter works at the UO in Portland as assistant vice president for Portland Advancement. Patricia is survived by three daughters: Candace Horter, Portland; Lacen Patricia G.  Horter, BFA ’74, Sauvie Island, Oregon; and Penelope McCarthy, BS fine art ’75, Newport, Oregon.