Downtime with Max Williams

Jason E. Kaplan
Max Williams, president and CEO of Oregon Community Foundation

The president and CEO of Oregon Community Foundation talks about work, life and play.

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What I am reading

I’m usually reading something work related, something biographical and something for pleasure. Currently, I’m reading How Democracies Die by Levitsky and Ziblatt. I’m finishing Andrew Roberts’ comprehensive biography of Napoleon, and I’m rereading the historical fiction Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian.

What I am watching

COVID isolation has created a little more time for TV and movies. I’ve been watching cooking shows, the Alone series, and I just finished Mrs. America, about the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] movement in the ’70s. My guilty pleasure right now is rewatching The Rockford Files. I love seeing all the old cars from that period. I always wanted that gold Firebird.

What I am listening to

I’ve been mostly listening to podcasts while I am exercising. I like Planet Money, Freakonomics, Ted Talks Daily, and a friend recently recommended Nice White Parents about desegregation of New York City schools. It is a very powerful narrative about racial equity and justice.

Must-have gadget

I’m not much of a gadget guy, but we’ve been doing more cooking lately, and I really like my sous vide [cooker]. It makes preparing the perfect tri-tip so easy.

What I do outside of work

As a lifelong Oregonian, my interests generally center on the outdoors. As a family we love to hike — whether it’s in the Gorge, on the Coast or my kids dragging me up South Sister. I’ve been spending more time birding both in my backyard and on the trail and am really enjoying that, although I’m still very much a novice.

Earliest ambition

I was almost 6 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and I remember watching it on our black-and-white TV. I knew then that I wanted to be an astronaut. I followed the astronauts like they were professional athletes, wrote letters to NASA and still have a bunch of the memorabilia they sent me. I still sometimes dream about it and am a bit of a NASA nerd. Funny thing is — I really hate flying.

Professional role model

Mark Hatfield. Sen. Hatfield, whom I had a chance to know, epitomized professionalism, statesmanship and a deep commitment to his personal values. He was an Oregonian first, above party or faction. That has always been something I admired.

Future ambition

I want to see the Oregon Community Foundation increase its influence on the big challenges facing Oregon. I think everyone agrees that every child in Oregon needs a fair chance to succeed in life. I also think the vast majority of people in Oregon would agree that the opportunity to succeed in life shouldn’t be defined by your race, your ZIP code or who your parents are.

That’s not the American dream we were taught to believe in. I’d like to see Oregon make real progress on closing those gaps in opportunity, equity and achievement.

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