Dr. Elizabeth Hatfield-Keller: In Memoriam

Statement from OHS Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk

The Oregon Historical Society is saddened to share news of the passing of trustee Dr. Elizabeth Hatfield-Keller after a courageous battle with cancer. While Dr. Hatfield-Keller recently joined the board in 2020, she has long been a member of the OHS family. Her father, Senator Mark Hatfield, was the inspiration for OHS’s annual Mark O. Hatfield Lecture Series that presents evenings of thought-provoking discussion from the nation’s top historians and authors. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, OHS was in the midst of launching the 2020 series, and quickly sought Dr. Hatfield-Keller’s advice on how to proceed in the midst of so much uncertainty. With her experience as an emergency room physician, she championed our first COVID-pivot as we moved the series to a virtual format, penning personal letters to series sponsors explaining the importance of social distancing to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Her willingness to be a leader on the OHS board of trustees, and to use her knowledge as a doctor and her influence as Senator and Mrs. Hatfield’s daughter, helped us fulfill our mission and truly take care of one another during the pandemic. She was a voice of reason, and she was a great advocate who reminded us of our duty to always prioritize public health when making programmatic decisions. Listening to her strong opinions and wise advice freed up staff and board members to operate in a new pandemic reality and embrace innovation to meet the evolving needs of our community. She faced her own diagnosis with the same sensible reason, courage, and poise that we so admired in her.

OHS’s board president, Mary Faulkner, shared a recent email communication in which Dr. Hatfield-Keller expressed that she hoped to be remembered as “someone who handled this with grace and gratitude, recognizing there have been so many blessings before, during, and as a result.” Dr. Hatfield-Keller’s strength during her battle with cancer is an example to us all, and there is no doubt that her memory will live on thanks to the important work she did for our community and for the Oregon Historical Society. We are grateful to have had her leadership on our board, and to have had the privilege to count her as a dear friend and advocate of OHS’s mission.