Couple gives $10 million to support biomedical data science

Student writing on whiteboard

A $10 million gift from Portland’s Mary and Tim Boyle is fueling the start of a joint center in biomedical data science recently announced by the University of Oregon and Oregon Health & Science University.

The Boyles were inspired to make the gift to the UO earlier this year when they learned of plans for a UO-OHSU biomedical data center. The joint center combines efforts from around the UO and at the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact with those at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to detect and fight deadly forms of cancer and other diseases.

“Mary and Tim Boyle know that uniting University of Oregon scientists with their medical school colleagues at OHSU is crucial if our state is to serve as a wellspring of biomedical discoveries,” Schill said. “Their $10 million gift supporting data science, the rapidly evolving field that is driving discovery across disciplines, will be a force multiplier for our joint pursuit of treatments, therapies — perhaps even cures — for cancer and other lethal diseases.”

The gift strengthens the UO’s Presidential Initiative in Data Science by establishing resources to help recruit and support undergraduate and graduate students, and also attract world class faculty in areas such as computer science, applied math and genomics.

Launched last fall, the Presidential Initiative in Data Science brings together interdisciplinary research and liberal arts strengths from around the UO to collect, analyze and interpret large amounts of data to drive positive societal impact. Expertise in big data and analytics is essential not just for the UO but also for the entire state of Oregon to become a center for innovation, said Bill Cresko, biology professor and executive director of the data science initiative.

“The partnership with OHSU is just the beginning,” Cresko said. “It provides a model for development of data science programs in other focal areas, such as environmental big data, business analytics, behavioral data science, and data science ethics and communication. It ranges from the natural sciences to architecture to music.”

Tim Boyle, a UO graduate and CEO of Columbia Sportswear, said he and Mary are delighted by the collaborative spirt of the UO’s data science initiative.

“Mary and I are thrilled to help create an environment that allows researchers to tap the power of big data and prepares students for careers in the rapidly changing field of data science,” Boyle said. “We are excited about the new biomedical data science center because the UO and OHSU complete each other in terms of research expertise. We look forward to seeing similar collaborations in other fields.”

Vice President for Advancement Mike Andreasen said the Boyles’ latest gift will amplify the impact of their 2016 contribution of $10 million for the life sciences, which endowed funding for the UO’s aquatic animal care facility and expanded facilities dedicated to genomics research.

“All of us will benefit from the discoveries that will be made right here in Oregon as a direct result of Mary and Tim Boyle’s wise approach to philanthropy, which reflects their abiding love for our state,” Andreasen said. “They embody what we call the Oregon spirit — a combination of vision, grit, optimism and collaboration that Ducks bring to every opportunity. This is what powers our $3 billion campaign, and I feel fortunate to be part of it.”

The Boyles are among the UO’s leading benefactors. Their previous gifts have provided support for teaching and research in the UO’s School of Journalism and Communications, Lundquist College of Business and College of Design, which is home to the Tim and Mary Boyle Chair in Material Studies and Product Design.

The couple met in high school and attended the UO in the early 1970s. Tim Boyle studied business and earned a degree in journalism, and Mary majored in fine and applied arts. One of Oregon’s strongest champions for public education, Tim Boyle co-chaired the university’s last major fundraising campaign and served as a trustee for the UO Foundation.

Tim Boyle’s desire to support research at the UO stems in part from conversations with a favorite aunt, Hildegard Lamfrom. He often visited her at the UO’s Institute of Molecular Biology during his student days. A renowned geneticist, Lamfrom was a member of two Nobel Prize-winning labs before the institute’s exceptionally collaborative culture lured her to the UO.

—By Melody Ward Leslie, University Communications