It was the Gift Heard ‘Round the World.
News of Penny and Phil Knight’s historic $500 million investment in a new University of Oregon science campus spread like a transcontinental sonic boom Tuesday, rattling media websites all the way to the East Coast and beyond. But as shock waves go, this one left people shaken in a good way.
Even with a boiling presidential election and turmoil in the Middle East, news of the gift was prominent across the country. The Wall Street Journal was the first major news outlet to break the story, followed quickly by The Washington Post, Forbes, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The story was even bigger on the West Coast, where it was top news in The Register-Guard, The Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Portland Business Journal and television stations from Medford to Seattle.
The Register-Guard posted one of the first editorials on the gift, calling it a “bold move” and comparing its legacy, The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, to President Kennedy’s goal of landing humans on the moon.
“The University of Oregon’s decision to build a $1 billion scientific research complex within the next decade is an academic moon shot,” the editorial says. “And no one should be surprised that the rocket boosters are Phil and Penny Knight.”
Coverage was widespread throughout the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast, as newspapers, television, radio and websites picked up and amplified the story on across the country.
The gift was big news on social media, too. Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms brought out the inner Duck in people across the nation. Here's a sampling:
Thx to the Knights for their incredible generosity! This transformative gift will take OR higher ed to the next level for many generations https://t.co/mXqiAGYsHb— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) October 18, 2016
Amazing generosity from two extremely great people. Thank you Penny and Phil. https://t.co/fTMOuNXk7C— Andrew Wheating (@AndrewWheating) October 19, 2016
What a guy. https://t.co/FyMrCRq1EG— Ashton Eaton (@AshtonJEaton) October 18, 2016
penny & phil knight, thank you for fueling the future! it's a gift to be a duck! https://t.co/E0AlEfoWk7— Alexi Pappas (@AlexiPappas) October 19, 2016
As a scientist and faculty at the UO today is historic. Imagine the possibilities @uoregon— Julie Haack (@jahaack) October 18, 2016
Congrats @uoregon. Big day for Ducks.— Ryan Frank (@rfrnk) October 18, 2016
@uoregon Just Amazing! How two wonderful people can keep giving so much hope to humanity. The world is blessed to have Penny and Phil— Jerry Allen (@VoiceoftheDucks) October 18, 2016