Oregon taxpayers give UO $50M for Knight Campus construction

Saul Hubbard has the good news in the RG today. The ask was for $100M, but the rest will come next biennium or so. These are the kinds of bonds that are repaid by taxpayers – unlike the $235M the state let UO borrow for Knight Arena. Those bonds are UO’s obligation to repay, and are an ongoing constraint on our ability to borrow.

Historic gift will transform our state, University of Oregon (Opinion)

And keep us in the AAU. Rumor down at the faculty club is that this gift came just in the nick of time for the annual AAU meeting. (Update: Noah McGraw has more in the Emerald here.) President Schill in the Oregonian:

Michael H. Schill:

This week I had the pleasure of announcing that two extraordinary members of our university family, Phil and Penny Knight, made a jaw-dropping $500 million gift to the University of Oregon.

Their amazing generosity will launch the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, a 10-year, $1 billion quantum leap forward in the way Oregon approaches scientific research.

Both the amount of money and the vision for the Knight Campus are staggering. The first questions from everyone I talk to are “What is it?” and “What kinds of discoveries will it make?”

The beauty of scientific research is that we cannot predict the discoveries that may be revealed or the impacts those discoveries will generate. The possibilities are limitless. As my colleague, President Joe Robertson of Oregon Health & Science University, said, “Science by its very nature is unpredictable, which is what makes it so exciting.”

But there is much we do know.

The Knight Campus is a radical idea, but it’s built on the university’s well-established history of interdisciplinary collaboration. The vision came directly from the faculty and will focus on accelerating the cycle of inquiry, discovery, innovation and impact.

The Knight Campus will allow us to recruit the world’s best researchers to Oregon — engineers, data scientists, robotics experts, entrepreneurs and clinicians — and to pair them with our exceptional faculty. Scientific discoveries will be more quickly refined, tested — leaping traditional hurdles — to become life-changing medicines, products or solutions. When fully implemented, it will comprise three 70,000-square-foot buildings outfitted with labs, prototyping facilities and clinical space.

The vision came directly from the faculty and will focus on accelerating the cycle of inquiry, discovery, innovation and impact.

During peak construction, the Knight Campus will directly contribute $99.7 million in annual economic activity to Oregon’s economy, which will support more than 1,300 jobs. This 21st-century science hub will be home to 30 research teams and support 250 graduate students, 150 post-doctoral researchers, and 150 undergraduate researchers, offering these students new research, educational, and career-preparatory opportunities.

The impact of this unprecedented gift will ripple far beyond the sciences and the campus in Eugene. This research environment will offer new collaborative opportunities with the university’s public research counterparts of OHSU, Oregon State University, and Portland State University.

The Knight Campus also will help Oregon enhance and expand its innovation economy. When fully operational, the Knight Campus will drive nearly $80 million in annual economic activity statewide and support more than 750 jobs. It will enhance the state’s workforce, incubate new Oregon-based companies and train a new generation of scientific entrepreneurs.

Its broad economic benefit and possibility for collaboration are just some of many reasons we want to partner with the State of Oregon. During the 2017 legislative session, the university will seek an investment of $100 million in bonds to support the Knight Campus. The investment would be immediately deployed to construct one of the three research facilities, allowing the UO to drive other funds into endowing faculty positions and ensuring those professors have the resources needed to research, discover and produce new innovations that can be brought to market and help change the world.

While this project does not reduce the need for more classroom space for students, the public investment would be matched ten-to-one by private philanthropy — an exceptional public-private partnership and a solid investment in our state’s prosperity. We fully intend that this structure will ensure that the Knight Campus remains financially sustainable without drawing from other campus resources or student tuition.

This monumental act of philanthropy provides a ray of hope to public universities throughout the nation that, according to a recent speech by AAU president Mary Sue Coleman, are at “a tipping point.” The Knights’ gift is a perfect example of how a pub- lic university — even in a state that has struggled to invest in higher education — can still hope to achieve eminence in the 21st century.

This extraordinary gift was given out of the Knight’s deep love for our university and our state. It was given out of an abiding belief that with the right resources, the right strategy, and the right leadership, the University of Oregon can achieve a level of excellence and create a type of scientific innovation that had previously been out of reach. We are profoundly grateful to Phil and Penny.

This is a defining moment for the UO and the state of Oregon, one that will push the bounds of discovery and the limits of our imagination. We are eager to seize this moment — to partner with the state, public universities, industry, alumni, donors and the community — to make our world a better place. The possibilities are limitless.

Michael H. Schill is president of the University of Oregon and a professor of law.