Nike’s Phil Knight Donates $500 Million to University of Oregon

The University of Oregon announced on Monday a major donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

Knight, who studied business at the Eugene, Ore., campus and ran track there before founding Nike, donated $500 million to the university, which is set to open the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. The campus, which the school estimates will cost $1 billion total, is designed to “fast-track scientific discoveries and the process of turning those discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation and beyond.”

“While not without risk, we believe the expected societal returns from such investments are high,” Knight said in a statement. “And here at home in Oregon, we believe the potential to arm our talented young people with the skills and tools they will need to have a lasting impact on the world and to pursue rewarding careers makes such investments essential.”

According to the university, this is the largest gift presented to a public flagship institution. Previous gifts as large as Knight’s have gone to private institutions, medical schools or multi-university partnerships.

The university’s president Michael H. Schill said that Knight’s gift will allow the school to hire researchers and “develop the infrastructure and support networks necessary to ensure that our best ideas and discoveries are quickly tested, refined and developed into innovations that improve the human condition.”

The Knight Campus will have three 70,000-sq.-ft. buildings that will house labs, research facilities, prototyping tools, imaging facilities, human subject interaction space and an innovation hub. There will be about 300 full-time researchers, including top scientists, graduate and undergraduate students and post-doctoral researchers.

In February, Knight donated $400 million to a new Stanford University graduate program. Knight received his MBA at the university in 1962 and founded Nike two years later. In April, Knight said that he plans to donate most of his $25 billion fortune to charitable causes. Knight officially stepped down as chairman of Nike in June, with company CEO Mark Parker adding chairman to his title.

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