Spathas was destined for OSU

Matt Spathas with his wife and four children.
Matt Spathas with his wife and four children.

The son of an OSU-educated entrepreneur and a graduate of the same Portland high school that produced Linus Pauling, Matt Spathas’ trail to Corvallis was blazed early on.

“My dad told me, ‘You can go to any college you want, but the only one I’ll help you pay for is Oregon State,’” he said.

Four decades later, there’s little doubt in Spathas’ mind that his father really did know best.

“I’m really grateful for the education I received at Oregon State,” said Spathas, this year’s Distinguished Service Award winner.

Spathas, College of Business class of 1980, is one of three managing principals at SENTRE Partners, a San Diego-based firm that describes itself as “Stewards and Entrepreneurs of Real Estate.” He’s been with the company for 21 years and in his career has had a hand in more than $2.5 billion in transactions.

But what stands out for Spathas isn’t dollars or buildings, it’s “the mentors I’ve had along the way, and second to that are the relationships that we’ve built.”

Spathas grew up in southeast Portland, where his family operated Claudia’s Tavern. His father, Gene, had opened the saloon on Hawthorne Boulevard in 1958, fulfilling a promise to put his bride’s “name up in lights.”

“It wasn’t exactly what she had in mind,” Spathas joked.

As a senior, Spathas was named athlete of the year at Washington High School – where the principal was former OSU football All-American Bill Gray.

After earning his degree, Spathas landed a job as a sales associate with Portland commercial real estate firm Norris, Beggs & Simpson. There he found mentors in Clayton Hering, now the company chairman, and another OSU alum, Joe Wood, who’d earned the nickname “Mr. Downtown.”

“He was legendary,” Spathas said. “He’d leased virtually every new high-rise that had been built in Portland.”

After two years, Spathas and wife, Kristen, also an Oregon State graduate, moved to San Diego, where Spathas became a marketing principal for Trammell Crow, the nation’s biggest commercial development company. He joined SENTRE Partners in 1994.

Spathas will be honored May 11 in Portland at the college’s annual Celebration of Excellence, along with the rest of the 2015 award winners as well as retiring Dean Ilene Kleinsorge. For more on the event and the honorees, follow the College of Business blog as the countdown to the celebration continues over the next couple of weeks.

The evening begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the awards presentation. For more information or to register, contact Elsa Frey at or call 541-737-6648, or register online at

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