Construction planning for the UO’s new Black Cultural Center is underway now that fundraising has passed the halfway mark of $1.5 million, thanks to several major gifts and a big boost from a grassroots fundraising campaign.
Recent gifts include $150,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation, a $200,000 anonymous gift and additional commitments totaling $200,000. The project also has received more than 100 individual donations, spurred by a $10,000 challenge gift from the Black Alumni Network of the University of Oregon Alumni Association on the UO’s May 18 giving day.
Donors Nancy and Dave Petrone were so moved by the grassroots “DucksGive” campaign they added to their initial $250,000 gift that jump-started the project.
“It’s so inspiring to Nancy and me to see the groundswell of support,” Dave Petrone said. “What a great asset the center can be for campus and the community.”
The gifts have paved the way for progress, President Michael Schill told black student leaders and members of the Black Student Task Force. He affirmed their goal that a Black Cultural Center will support black students’ academic success and advance the university's goal of helping all students graduate on time.
“This new center will create a dedicated place for social and academic engagement that black students have requested and they need,” Schill said. “It will also help improve the UO’s ability to recruit and retain black students, faculty and staff, and create new opportunities for the greater community. We are thrilled to receive the generous support that is helping to make this project a reality.”
The new center is planned for East 15th Avenue near Villard Street at an estimated cost of $3 million. Kevin Marbury, the university’s interim vice president for student life, announced that Architecture Building Culture of Portland, known as ABC, will be the project architects.
“We’re making very good progress, and our students in the user group have been completely engaged as we move forward,” Marbury said. “With these recent contributions, we can get started on the next phase and create tangible documents that will help everyone visualize what the center can be.”
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh said the new center will help students intellectually, ethically and physically.
“It will strengthen their ties as a community and inspire success and leadership,” she said. “UO students will have the opportunity to engage with cutting-edge academics from around the country, as well as alumni, community partners, businesses and nonprofit organizations.”
Alex-Assensoh sees far-reaching benefits for the UO. “Through the Black Cultural Center we will help shape black leaders, build interracial coalitions and advance humanity, global citizenship, business acumen and social entrepreneurship,” she said.
The Black Cultural Center was one of 13 demands that were delivered by the Black Student Task Force in 2015. Actions implemented by the UO include creation of the Umoja Academic Residential Center, the creation of an African American Opportunities Program, accelerated efforts to recruit African-American students to the university, and the hiring of African-American faculty members, including the launching of a new African-American studies cluster in the College of Arts and Sciences.