October 18, 2016
Welcome, everyone. Welcome, Governor Brown. Welcome, faculty, staff, and students. Welcome, friends and alumni. Welcome to our many community, state, and federal partners. I am thrilled that you are all here to share this incredible moment of celebration with us.
I’m joined here on this stage by members of our board of trustees, our provost, vice presidents, and deans; by members of our science faculty, ASUO leadership, and university senate leadership; and also by elected officials from Eugene and Oregon, including Governor Kate Brown.
We are here today to make history. And to transform our future—thanks to an unprecedented $500 million gift from Penny and Phil Knight, the largest single gift ever made to a public flagship university.
This monumental act of philanthropy, this incredible demonstration of love for the University of Oregon, will launch a $1 billion initiative called the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.
The Knight Campus will fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation, and the world.
The Knight Campus will reshape the state’s public higher-education landscape by training new generations of scientists, forging tighter ties with industry and entrepreneurs, and creating new educational and career opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.
The Knight Campus will catapult our state’s knowledge-based economy forward as it generates between $80 and $100 million of economic activity statewide each year and supports from 750 to 1,000 jobs.
But first, I want to tell you a bit about the genesis of this wonderful vision.
The vision for this campus was born like all great academic ideas—from our faculty members—out of their passion to make a difference in the world, to see their discoveries in the lab translate more quickly and efficiently into innovations and impacts in the world.
Last fall we brought together University of Oregon faculty members from across campus who brainstormed this idea of breaking down the traditional research barriers so that their discoveries could move from the laboratory to the market; from scholarly journals to improvements in the lives and material circumstances of human beings through new products, medicines, technologies, and policies.
These scientists and scholars shared their big idea with me, and I shared it with Phil and Penny Knight—and they loved it.
What is so amazing about this dream of our researchers is that unlike so many initiatives in higher education, this one has the resources to back it up, thanks to Phil and Penny Knight.
So what is the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact in real, concrete terms?
When the Knight Campus is fully realized over the next 10 years, it will comprise three 70,000=square=foot buildings on Franklin Boulevard, connected to our existing Lokey Science Complex research facilities by a sky bridge.
In those buildings, working together, will be our current researchers and 30 new faculty members, 150 postdocs, 250 graduate students, and 150 undergraduate students.
Many of the new faculty members recruited to the Knight Campus will not look like the traditional scientist the campus is used to seeing. They could be engineers, data scientists, robotics experts, entrepreneurs, and scientists interested in clinical translation of new discoveries.
They will be armed with the latest tools, state-of-the-art laboratories, and technology.
The Knight Campus will provide the resources, infrastructure, and support networks to ensure that our best ideas and discoveries are quickly tested, refined, and developed into innovations that improve the human condition.
The first steps toward bringing the Knight Campus to life are already underway. We will swiftly launch a national search for a world-class scientist to lead the campus for accelerated scientific impact. For the present, Patrick Phillips, professor of biology, has agreed to serve as our interim executive director. [NOTE: These press releases keep using the term “acting” incorrectly. The dictionary definition of “acting” means “temporarily assuming the duties or authority of another.” This position is new. There has been no “another.”
We will seek state support for a new science building that will be part of the Knight Campus. Concurrently, we will raise funds to complete the $1 billion long-term vision for the campus
from donors who have already expressed an interest in the sciences. We will also assemble both internal and external advisory committees who will advise and help set the direction for the campus.
Patrick and I are also looking forward to consulting with the University Senate Academic Council, our Faculty Advisory Committee, and other campus leaders as we bring the Knight Campus to life.
The benefits of the Knight Campus’s innovative approach to accelerating scientific impact are immense.
The entire campus will benefit.
The Knight Campus will build on our 50-year tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration in the sciences and will allow us to accelerate the research “impact cycle.”
It will substantially increase federal research funding to the University of Oregon, allow us to attract and retain outstanding students and faculty members, and raise our profile throughout the world.
That sky bridge that I mentioned over Franklin Boulevard tying the Lokey complex with the Knight Campus is designed to be more than a safe and dry way to cross the street. It also symbolizes my hope and expectation that the Knight Campus will have an impact that will be felt throughout our university. Of course, our scientists on the south side of Franklin will be able to use new core facilities, access research innovation funds, and partner with new colleagues who will help them extend their work in new directions.
But I also see collaborations among our humanists, social scientists, and Knight Campus faculty members on the social implications of technological change. I see partnerships among the business school, law school, planning and public policy department, and the Knight Campus around entrepreneurship and product development. And so much more.
I see collaborations with our sister research universities—OHSU, OSU, and PSU, which is one of the reasons I am so grateful to have Joe Robertson here today.
I see tremendous opportunities for our students. We will begin with graduate education and then move on to undergraduate majors and degrees, working hand-in-hand with our faculty and University Senate.
And I see the Knight Campus as a major driver of economic development in the state. Oregon needs to continue to aggressively enhance and expand its innovation economy. With Silicon Valley to the south and Seattle to the north, the time is ripe for this type of economic development. I believe that the tailwinds are with us and that the Knight Campus will soon be a
major player in transforming our economy into one with higher- paying, information-based jobs. That is one of the reasons we are seeking to partner with the governor and legislature with respect to one of our new laboratory buildings.
There are so many people who helped make this happen. Our legislators and alumni, who cleared the way for our new governance system that made this gift possible. Our faculty, who dreamt big and shared a clear vision for this campus.
Our board of trustees, led by the extraordinary Chuck Lillis, who provided us all with the clear mandate to reach for the sky. Our leadership teams, who worked through the myriad details and logistics. The many donors and friends who laid the groundwork through gifts for our existing facilities and endowed faculty chairs.
And, of course, Penny and Phil Knight. Thank you! This gift is simply extraordinary. They gave it out of a deep love for our university and the state of Oregon, and an abiding belief that, with the right resources, the right strategy, and the right leadership, the University of Oregon could achieve a level of excellence and national prominence that has previously been out of reach.
This is a defining moment for the UO, a bold step forward that will shape the trajectory of the university for the next century and beyond. I am excited to share it with you.