The generous $500 million gift from Phil and Penny Knight to the University of Oregon is the "largest ever for a public flagship institution" and is intended to support and strengthen interdisciplinary scientific research.
With the donation, the university plans to extend its current science campus by 210,000 square feet, with three new research facilities. The initiative is expected to create 30 new positions for research scientists and open 250 graduate and 150 postdoctoral slots.
This won't be the first time the Knights have made such a large contribution. In 2014, they gave more than $300 million to the University of Oregon's athletic department. Also, in February 2016, they announced their plan to donate $400 million to Stanford University's graduate scholar program. Mega-gifts such as these given to Knights' alma maters are not uncommon; however, they are "rare at public universities." While some argue that these donations are simply "gifts from the top 1% to the top 1%," University of Oregon President Michael Schill notes that "more than one-third of Oregon undergraduates are considered low-income." Furthermore, statistics from the White House indicate that only "73% of Oregon students graduated high school last year, one of the lowest graduation rates in the country."
Mr. Knight's states that "collaborative scientific research is a comparative strength at the University of Oregon, and with appropriate support could develop into a major center of excellence and a national treasure." He notes that the lack of funding to basic scientific research programs "threaten to choke off opportunities to enhance standards of living." The University of Oregon hopes to complete and open the new facilities in three years.
Do you think the $500 million donation is a good investment? If you had the resources, how and where would you invest your dollars? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to check out our extended list of scholarships by state for more opportunities.