Penny and Phil Knight were America’s top donors in 2016

Penny and Phil Knight, the most generous donors to the UO in its 140-year history, were the nation’s No. 1 philanthropists last year after making a landmark gift to establish a new science campus at the university.

The list was published Feb. 7 in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (available to subscribers). An accompanying article tells the story of the $500 million gift that is seeding the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

Phil Knight earned his business degree at the UO while running track under the legendary Bill Bowerman. They would go on to co-found Nike, the world’s leading designer, marketer and distributor of athletic footwear, apparel and equipment.

Over the years the Knights have helped to transform the lives of students, faculty, and community members through their generous philanthropic support of the university. Their notable gifts include $15 million to create endowed chairs and professorships across campus, a $10 million lead gift to help finance construction of the School of Law, and more than $100 million in support of innovative facilities and programs in intercollegiate athletics.

Announced Oct. 18, the Knight Campus is a game-changing initiative specifically designed to fast-track scientific discoveries and the process of turning those discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation and beyond. The campus 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.

“The gift is simply extraordinary,” UO President Michael H. Schill said at the time of the announcement. “It was given out of the Knight’s deep love for our university and the state of Oregon, and an abiding belief that, with the right resources, the right strategy and the right leadership, the University of Oregon can achieve a level of excellence and national prominence that has previously been out of reach. The real winners are the people of Oregon and our future students. We are deeply grateful.”