Phil Knight Donates Another $500 Million to the University of Oregon

THAT’S A LOT OF SNEAKERS: Five years after donating $500 million to the University of Oregon, Nike’s former leader Phil Knight and his wife Penny have donated $500 million more for the second phase of an innovative scientific research campus named in their honor.

Before his sneaker-selling days, Phil Knight attended the University of Oregon. It was there as a runner on the track team that he and his track coach Bill Bowerman first discussed running shoes in 1958. Six years later they started a company with shoes designed by Bowerman that would become Nike in 1968. Knight retired as president, chairman and chief executive officer of Nike Inc. in July 2016.

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The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact was officially unveiled in December and is led by executive director Robert Guldberg. The second gift of $500 million will be used for a second building for research and innovation. The current plan is a 175,000-square-foot building that will focus on bioengineering and applied science research. It will house new research facilities and flexible lab spaces.

The Portland-based ZGF Architects has been selected for programming and concept design. The first phase of the project was handled by New York-based Ennead Architects and Portland-based Bora Architects.

The second half-billion gift by the Knights, who have been married since 1968, will also be used to support faculty, academic and innovation programming, as well as operations through an endowment. This next phase will result in 14 to 16 new faculty in bioengineering, regenerative medicine, biomedical data science and other applied interdisciplinary sciences to spearhead research programs. That will increase the campus’ tenure-related faculty to 30.

Aiming to train hundreds of postdoctoral scholars and students over the next decade, the Knight Campus will welcome 100 students, who are pursuing master’s degrees in materials science, bioinformatics and genomics with a focus on hands-on training through a graduate internship program. By bringing teams of scientists, researchers and students together in open work spaces and other areas, the thinking is that interaction will increase, innovation will spark and subsequently research can be developed with cutting-edge technology to make prototyping faster. As part of the deployment, an innovation center will then be used “to maximize the commercial potential and ensure the product, therapy or treatment reaches as many people as possible.”

Knight Campus faculty have already been working with start-ups that are focused on 3D printing of patient-specific orthopedic implants, implantable screws and other devices with built-in sensors to monitor healing. The Knights’ support of the university is designed to help boost economic development in Eugene, which is the third largest city in Oregon.

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