$10 million gift jump-starts college and careers building

Willie and Don Tykeson with Robin Holmes and W. Andrew Marcus

Thanks to a $10 million lead gift by Eugene philanthropists Willie and Don Tykeson, a 1951 University of Oregon graduate, the biggest academic unit within the UO is a major step closer to having a home of its own.

The new College and Careers Building is being planned to house the College of Arts and Sciences, which comprises 49 undergraduate programs and confers almost 60 percent of all UO degrees yet has no primary location.

The UO plans for the facility to be a state-of-the-art hub for classrooms, offices and collaborative spaces where students can work closely with faculty members in seminar and honors settings.

It will also provide a new home for the UO Career Center, merging core academic activities with career advising.

The re-envisioned Career Center will help students prepare for careers and lives by facilitating access to employers, recruiters and professional networks for work and graduate school opportunities, said Robin Holmes, vice president for student life.

“This new approach will enhance the Career Center’s mission to help students develop long-term career goals and strategies and will provide Oregon employers a place to access Oregon talent,” said Holmes.

Currently estimated to cost $34 million, the 50,000-square-foot structure is envisioned for the center of campus, providing much-needed classroom space in the campus core and easy access to students seeking career planning.

For the Tykesons, this potent combination presented an opportunity give back at a time of high need.

“Willie and I are pleased to be a part of it and to have made the lead gift, which makes it feasible to move ahead,” said Don Tykeson, in announcing the gift. “You need the support and help from alumni to make it happen. I think it’s important for each of us to step up to the plate and help accomplish that for those who follow us.”

For more than 20 years the Tykesons have been committed to improving the UO experience for students and faculty as donors, advocates, leaders and volunteers.

They established an endowment for innovative undergraduate teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences and a named professorship in the Charles H. Lundquist College of Business and have supported construction projects, scholarships, athletics and the arts. Don currently serves as a trustee emeritus of the UO Foundation board and on the Lundquist College of Business Board of Advisors. For their service, he and Willie received the UO Presidential Medal in 1997 and the Pioneer Award in 2001.

“Don and Willie, thank you for your continued generosity,” said interim President Scott Coltrane. “Your gift will create an incredible opportunity to enhance student recruitment, retention and career success after graduation. This is critical to our overall mission.”

Coltrane said the UO will now take the project to the state 2015 legislative session and seek public financing for up to half the cost.

“We are hopeful the legislature and the governor will approve state bonds to help leverage this extremely generous private investment for the benefit of our students,” he said.

W. Andrew Marcus, the interim Tykeson Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, deeply appreciates the family’s continued commitment to academics.

“Even more important than the expanded space and specialized facilities in a central location, the building will be a center for student success,” said Marcus. “It will be a place — a home — that creates a sense of belonging for our student scholars and faculty.”

Currently, the college’s department offices and operations are dispersed across more than 50 buildings on and off campus.

The new building will house central advising and administration functions for the dean's office and college programs. Examples are College Scholars, General Social Sciences and Environmental Studies, which together serve more than 1,300 students each year.

During his own college days, Don Tykeson finished his business degree requirements early, which allowed him take a wide range of arts and science classes.

“I think it’s a foundation for life,” he explains. “You’re on this planet to enjoy, contribute, make a difference, lead a fulfilling life and have fun along the way, and I think a liberal arts education helps equip you very well for that.”

By George Evano, University Advancement