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Earle M. Chiles Honored

Businessman and philanthropist among this year’s honorary degree recipients

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Each year at Commencement, Boston University singles out people from all walks of life who have contributed to society, and bestows on them an honorary degree. Among this year’s recipients is Earle M. Chiles, president of Earle Chiles and Affiliated Companies, a Portland-based property investment, management, and development firm with holdings throughout Oregon and in other parts of the country, and president of the Chiles Foundation.

Chiles was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but he has strong roots in New England. His mother, Virginia Hughes Chiles (PAL’24, Hon.’87), was born in Boston. His father came east to attend graduate school, and it was here he met and married Virginia. Upon returning to Oregon, he went to work in the family retail business, begun by his stepfather, selling coffee, tea, and spices out of a horse-drawn carriage in Portland and throughout the surrounding lumber camps.

Chiles is a graduate of Menlo College and Stanford University. His father spent his entire career in the family business, Fred Meyer, Inc., which had grown from one carriage to a major chain of retail outlets, and Chiles served as a director of the company. His father established the Chiles Foundation in 1949, and the younger Chiles was executive director from 1968 until 1983, when he became president.

The Chiles name is recognized in the higher education and medical communities for the foundation’s support of building projects, research, and scholarships. A gift underwriting the Virginia Hughes Chiles Atrium in the School of Management is an example of Chiles’ commitment to his mother’s hometown. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Harvard University also have benefited from the foundation’s support, as have Stanford, Portland State, and many other institutions.

Chiles is a recipient of the German-American Friendship Award and of numerous honors from educational and health-related institutions. He was elected a trustee of Boston University in 1986 and served on the board until 2007, when he was named a trustee emeritus. He currently serves on the University’s Board of Overseers.

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