“It’s imperative that people be aware of the fact that the education in grade school and high school is very, very important — and they are the ones who need the money.”

" Joe Weston
Joe Weston refuses to let his hard-earned money just sit around.

Portland’s plain-talking property management guru works overtime to make sure lots and lots of his cash goes to causes he believes in — Catholic schools prominent among them. 

“I like the discipline, the morals that they teach and the people students can associate with,” said Weston, in crisp white shirt and trademark bold tie. 

Weston’s neckwear may be lavish, but his Northeast Portland offices are not. The warren of mid-century rooms is pleasant and clean, but nothing fancy. The floors creak. Weston, 79, prefers schools over ornate chambers.

“It’s imperative that people be aware of the fact that the education in grade school and high school is very, very important — and they are the ones who need the money,” Weston said. “If the kids don’t learn what they need in fifth, sixth and seventh grades, they are lost.”

When he visits Central Catholic, he marvels at the quiet and respect. He knows that if a student gets out of line, reaction is swift and involves parents. He likes supporting the firm formation of youths.

But Weston fears that Catholic schools, and the fate of children and society, hang in the balance. The problem is the rising cost of education, which is a stretch for many families.

The new Catholic Schools Foundation of Oregon aims to make Catholic education more affordable. Organizers hope to build the endowment with estate gifts and bequests.

Weston said that people like him are obligated to contribute now and set something up for the future so schools can keep getting vital support long after the donor is gone.

“I know I am getting to the end of the rope,” said Weston, whose own foundation is designed to last forever. “I hope this does keep going.”

Weston formed a partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation, using income from property to fund scholarships and all kinds of causes. It allows him to do good with his acumen in real estate.

“I have been fortunate,” said Weston, who bought his first property while still a student at Central Catholic in the 1950s. He used money earned as a paper delivery boy and soda jerk.

In addition to education, his foundation supports care for people who are homeless. He was key in founding St. Francis Dining Hall at St. Francis Parish in Southeast Portland. The dining hall’s round tables, which promote community, were Weston’s idea. He donated significantly for the construction of All Saints Church in 1967. 

Weston has a heart for the working poor, the ones who have trouble making ends meet. If he can help a family like that send someone to a Catholic school, that’s a fine day’s work in his mind.  

It’s not all about money. Weston sees philanthropy as a three-legged stool. It does include giving funds, but also offering professional expertise pro-bono and then general volunteering.   

“Throwing money at a project does not work if there is no talent,” he said.

Weston speaks at schools and tells students that their parents are sacrificing to provide a good education. The grandfatherly man tells youths: “You will want to do the same someday.”

  • Ed Langlois


Joe Weston, a philanthropist who earned his money in real estate, knows the ropes of giving. Here are some of his tips.

• Act before year’s end to donate as much as $100,000 from a 401(k) to a non-profit with zero tax liability. 

• Resist being tempted by banks to take out home equity loans. The free and clear house can be a mainstay of inheritance, helping families pay for education or begin their own philanthropy.

• Catholic schools must set up legal endowments. “Talk to alumni and give them a guilt trip to some extent. Tell them they can do estate planning. You just have to make people aware they are successful because of their education. When you are successful, you’ve got to remember your [grade and high] school.”

• Save for retirement and have an emergency fund if something goes awry. But everyone can get into the habit of giving to good causes, even if it’s small at first. Weston calls himself an example of how good it can feel to give.