Tech Data founder gives $5 million to boost ‘overall excellence’

A poster session at the 2016 Graduate Student Research Forum

The Duck who bought his dad’s side business for $10,000 in 1984 — and built it into the $27 billion global leader known as Tech Data — has contributed $5 million to create the University of Oregon’s first doctoral fellowship program, help fuel the President’s Success Fund and provide stipends for students in the UO’s human rights workshop program.

“This terrific support from Steve Raymund, one of our most innovative and successful alumni, will have an immediate effect,” said Michael H. Schill, UO president and professor of law. “We are inspired by his confidence in our mission and grateful for his personal involvement in realizing our vision for the university.”

Raymund, a 1978 economics graduate, will become UO Foundation chair in fall 2018.Steven A. Raymund

“I want to help boost the university’s overall excellence,” Raymund said. “More than ever, the university is in charge of its own fate. When you believe in the management, you want to fund their vision.”

Over time, the gift will provide $4.5 million to support doctoral students in every academic department. Schill said the entering class of 11 Raymund Fellows arrive this fall.

“Steve is answering a critical need with this gift, because a strong Ph.D. program is one of the key components to being a research university,” Schill said. “We compete head-to-head for these students with our AAU peers like Berkeley and Chicago. We’re increasing the size of our faculty, and we will need to bring on great doctoral students for each professor that we hire.”

Scott Pratt, dean of the Graduate School, said the Raymund Fellows will be free to concentrate solely on research because the award covers a stipend, health insurance, fees and tuition.

“As a faculty member, I’m extremely excited,” Pratt said. “Doctoral students come here to create new knowledge, and their research can be the first move toward changing a field. Traditionally we’ve funded students in their first year by giving them a job as a teaching or research assistant. Raymund Fellows will have the freedom to focus on their own work from the beginning in order to get their research into the world more quickly.”

Throughout their time at UO, the Raymund Fellows will also have the opportunity to share their work with each other, engage with faculty members from a variety of disciplines, and meet alumni whose research is already making a difference.

“Collaborative and interdisciplinary projects are key to the future of research,” Pratt said. “Members of the Raymund Fellows Society will see this firsthand.”

Raymund’s gift includes $250,000 for the new President’s Success Fund, a war chest that will allow the president to make investments where they can have the greatest impact.                               

 “I’ll defer to President Schill and his team in deciding how best to help realize our goal of making the UO a much better place,” Raymund said. “I believe in the team we have, and I’m happy to delegate the authority over where and how to invest.”

Another $250,000 will help expand the UO human rights workshop founded by professor emeritus Cheyney Ryan five years ago thanks to a financial boost from Raymund. Ryan, a courtesy professor in the Clark Honors College, divides his time between the UO and the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, where he is a fellow.

Ryan remembers Raymund as a serious, thoughtful freshman who spoke up often in two of the courses he taught as a newly arrived UO faculty member.

“Steve cares about students and this gift really touches their lives,” he says. “It’s enormously encouraging to people who work on human rights issues to have people like Steve supporting them.”

Raymund, who travels extensively for business, said he supports the program because the skills it teaches — mediating conflicts and making peace — are in short supply.

“The University of Oregon did a good job of educating me with a traditional liberal arts curriculum and all the benefits it provides for becoming more worldly, well-read and thoughtful about what is happening around you,” Raymund said. “I have a deep appreciation for all kinds of different areas I was exposed to at Oregon.”

Raymund chairs Tech Data, a Florida-based company that ranks No. 107 on the Fortune 500 and is enjoying its seventh straight year on Fortune’s list of World’s Most Admired Companies. It is among the largest global distributors of internet-based technologies, products and solutions.

In 2012, the industry magazine “MicroScope” honored Raymund with its lifetime achievement award as one “whose career has helped shape what we all expect a modern distributor to deliver and changed the understanding of what global logistics really means.” In 1999, he was inducted into the Computer Reseller News Hall of Fame alongside other industry greats such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, William Hewlett and Steve Jobs.

—By Melody Ward Leslie, University Communications