Art for Innovation

Painting of Mt. Hood

The late Alfred “Fred” Maurice’s curiosity and desire to see students succeed inspired him to establish a challenge for Western Oregon University students.

A WOU benefactor and honorary faculty member (pictured below), he created the J. Dolores and Alfred P. Maurice Initiative, a challenge for undergraduates who complete a year-long project in quest for a $5,000 prize.

Man standing next to his artwork.
The late Alfred “Fred” Maurice was a Western Oregon University benefactor and honorary faculty member.

Since the first prize was awarded in 2011, dozens of students have challenged themselves to define a problem, then create and find a solution. The 14 winning students’ projects have included finding solutions to problems like transportation, housing and food waste.

WOU Foundation Business and Finance Director Cara Groshong said Maurice left thousands of art pieces to WOU to be sold to fund the prize competition. He died in February 2019, a few weeks before his 98th birthday.

“He was a professor to the last day of his life, and he continues to inspire students even after his passing,” Groshong said. “Fred emphasized he didn’t care if students failed trying to find a solution to a problem. He encouraged students to get out of their comfort zone to learn something.”

Assistant Professor Paula Booth is the director of the Cannon Gallery of Art and oversees the exhibits in the Hamersly Library, Rice Auditorium lobby and the Werner University Center. Booth is organizing the sale of Maurice’s art.

Western Oregon University students Parker Riser ’20 and Emma Young ’20 hang
a display of Alfred Maurice’s artwork at the Cannon Gallery.

She has worked with students to catalog Maurice’s collection, dividing it into his sketches, paintings and personal art collection. “Fred was a master at having a keen observation of life,” Booth said. “His sketches are playful and colorful. His paintings are more methodical landscapes.”

The overall beauty of Maurice’s work, Booth said, is that everyone will find something they like. Booth said Maurice created the prize to give students an opportunity to make a difference in the world.

“Purchasing a piece of his artwork is helping him fund his dream to continue challenging students to make life better for others,” she said.

On March 11 in honor of Maurice’s birthday, Booth said people gathered for an art and wine walk where Maurice’s art was sold at the Cannon Gallery of Art, Hamersly Library and various downtown businesses.

To learn more about Alfred Maurice and the Maurice Initiative, visit wou.edu/mauriceprize.

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