Nike co-founder, UO announce plans for $1 billion science campus

The vision: to create the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. The billion dollar initiative - the University is at work to raise the rest of the money - calls for three new, state-of-the-art science buildings on the north side of Frankliln Boulevard and a sky bridge connecting to the existing science complex. (Courtesy University of Oregon)

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife have pledged $500 million to the University of Oregon toward a new scientific research facility.

The donation is the largest ever awarded to UO and is meant to launch a $1 billion, 10-year effort to build a three-building complex and add new graduate students and post-doctoral researchers to the university, The Register-Guard reported.

The university is calling the proposed new complex the "Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact."

The Knight donation will be provided over 10 years and will go toward construction of the new facility and also to endowments to generate income for the 30 new faculty positions being added as a result. In all, the new program will add 30 new faculty, 250 new graduate students and 150 new post-doctoral researchers

"This investment will help make sure that Oregon moves full steam ahead into the innovation economy of tomorrow," said Governor Kate Brown.

Michael Schill, University of Oregon president, announced the donation in front of university faculty and staff Tuesday morning.

"All across the country, public universities have been cut by their states. In Oregon, we’ve been cut faster and deeper than most. Yet we can still dream big and we can still achieve eminence, and the way we can achieve eminence is through gifts like this," said Schill.

In the most basic terms, this campus will be similar to an applied science program at the university. For example, professor Jim Hutchison studies now silver nanoparticles can prevent odor if sprayed on clothing. On the new campus, they would focus on how to apply that research to the real world.

"One of the thing that will come out of the campus is a whole new breed of scientists," said Hutchison. "One of the things we want to do is make sure every student comes in thinking about not only the fundamental research, but what does the society need."

Schill says a program like this will make them even more competitive with top universities around the country to attract more students and top faculty to Eugene.

"All across the country public universities have been cut by their states. In Oregon we’ve been cut faster and deeper than most. Yet we can still dream big and we can still achieve eminence, and the way we can achieve eminence is through gifts like this," said Schill.

The university expects the campus to be fully operation in ten years.

The $500 million donation is part of a larger $1 billion goal. The University of Oregon will gather donations for the remaining half of that goal.

One thing Schill and other faculty made clear during Tuesday's announcement, they are grateful for such a large donation from the Knights.

"The first time I met Phil, he said, 'I have webbed feet'," Schill said. "It is a tremendous vote of confidence in our future."

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