Powell gift supports fledgling UO Center for Genome Function

DNA strand

Longtime University of Oregon donors Sharon and Lloyd Powell — a 1955 UO graduate — have made a significant gift to the Center for Genome Function, a UO initiative led by an emerging team of UO biologists.

“All of us in the labs are so grateful to Sharon and Lloyd for their investment in genome science at the UO,” said lead researcher Eric Selker. “Their gift will help us continue to claim a leadership position at the forefront of genetic research.”Sharon and Lloyd Powell

The center’s innovative research seeks to understand the underlying processes of human genetics. Team members are helping fuel discoveries in the areas of cancer, neurological disorders, aging, infertility, birth defects, the side effects of drugs and environmental factors, and others.

The Powells’ gift provides essential support for the center, according to Selker, and is available for such expenses as lab startup costs, instrumentation and graduate student support.

The Powells have given extensively to the business school and intercollegiate athletics — Powell Plaza outside Hayward Field is named for the family — and Lloyd Powell has received the UO’s Pioneer Award and Presidential Medal. He also served the UO Foundation as a trustee.

But it was the Powells’ 50-year relationship with UO fundraiser Herb Yamanaka, combined with Sharon Powell’s interest in science, which led to the gift.

“Sharon wrote to me out of the blue,” Yamanaka recalled. “She said, ‘We’d love to help you with any research you are doing around the human genome.’ It was a nice surprise. What a wonderful email to receive from two most generous Ducks.”

Yamanaka has known Lloyd Powell dating back to Powell’s college days as a football player under UO coach Len Casanova. And they’ve maintained that friendship as three generations of Powells attended the UO. Sons Peter and Tom, daughter-in-law Maryanne (Molly), and grandsons Brendan, Lane and Tate have grown into an extended family of Powell Ducks.

The Center for Genome Function is one focus of the UO’s Clusters of Excellence hiring initiative. The clusters support UO President Michael Schill’s goal to hire an additional 80 to 100 tenure-track faculty members over the next five years to boost UO academics and research.

The Center for Genome Function added one new tenure-track faculty member in the past year, with plans to add two more. Jeffrey McKnight, formerly a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, joined current faculty members Selker and Diana Libuda.