President Michael H. Schill at the announcement of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact

Knight Campus briefing caps first full board meeting in Portland

The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact would not be possible without the university’s independent governance model, Patrick Phillips, acting executive director of the Knight Campus, told the Board of Trustees of the University Oregon during a formal briefing Friday at their regular meeting.

“I probably have the best job in the university right now,” said Phillips, as he described how well things are progressing from the perspective of the person tasked with waking up each day focused on how to bring the Knight Campus to life. “We wouldn’t be doing this without (the board) sitting here and having an independent voice.”

This week’s regular meeting marked the first in Portland since the board took over independent governance in July 2014.

Thanks to Penny and Phil Knight’s $500 million lead gift, the Knight Campus will be a game-changing initiative specifically designed to fast-track the process of turning scientific discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation and beyond.

Phillips’ presentation came a day after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown released her initial state budget recommendation for the 2017-19 biennium, which proposes full support for the UO's $100 million ask in capital funding for the campus’ physical facilities, albeit spread over three biennia.

Phillips highlighted economic impact estimates that call for the Knight Campus to generate more than $175 million in annual output – and nearly $11 million annually in state and local taxes — during peak construction. Once fully operational, the Knight Campus will generate an estimated $80 million in total annual output, with more than $6.5 million a year in state and local taxes.  

Meanwhile, working groups at the UO have been established to address financial aspects of the campus, ownership and use, and facilities design. Governance discussions are taking place, with the formal posting for the permanent position of executive director expected in early 2017.

“We owe it to ourselves to be highly selective,” Phillips said of the hiring process. “We will take the time that it takes to do this, but we will be aggressive.”

The Knight Campus, Phillips said, will reshape the higher education landscape in Oregon by training the next generations of scientists, forging tighter ties with industry and entrepreneurs and creating new educational opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.

“This is something that the faculty have deemed critical,” he said. “By having this kind of science on campus, it will benefit the basic sciences. We’re going to create a new way of educating students and providing them opportunities.”

The board also unanimously reappointed Chuck Lillis and Ginevra Ralph to three-year terms as chair and vice chair, respectively.

In other action, the board:

  • Authorized acquisition of property rights related to the development of the Knight Campus;
  • Authorized the use of derivatives in certain investments;
  • Approved a settlement agreement regarding construction issues and associated repairs in Global Scholars Hall;
  • Received a briefing of long-range facilities and physical infrastructure plans;
  • Approved a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in spatial data science and technology; and
  • Received an overview of the upcoming budget process for FY 2017-18, with emphasis on key cost drivers and how that will impact the tuition and fee setting process.

— By Tobin J. Klinger, University Communications