Gift expands collaboration between academics, athletics

A $1.5 million gift from Dr. Kenneth and Kenda Singer will establish a new human physiology research facility as part of the renovation of Hayward Field, one of the world’s best-known track and field venues.

The Singer-funded laboratories, part of a new dedicated research facility included in Hayward Field’s west grandstand renovation, will create expanded opportunities for collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and UO athletics.

“The University of Oregon is tremendously grateful to Kenda and Ken Singer for their longtime support and this generous gift, which will help expand our research capabilities related to health science and human performance,” President Michael Schill said. “It also fuels an innovative collaboration between academics and athletics, the type of partnership that is rare in universities nationwide and rapidly becoming a strength of the UO. Their gift doubles lab space, and its impact will be felt many times over in the years to come.”

Human physiology is among the fastest growing UO departments in the arts and sciences, with 1,132 majors. The Singers’ gift kicks off fundraising to add more faculty members and expand facilities for the department as a whole.

Thanks to their generosity, two of the University of Oregon’s leading human physiology professors will relocate from Esslinger Hall into the Bowerman Track and Field Complex. Chris Minson, the Ken and Kenda Singer Professor of Human Physiology, and human physiology professor John Halliwill say they are thrilled about the opportunity to have such a renowned athletic venue as headquarters for advanced biomedical research.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Minson said. “The Singer gift is going to allow us to do what we do better. What can we learn from studying athletes, for instance, that we can apply to a cardiac patient? What can we learn from a cardiac patient that we might be able to apply to athletes?"

The Singers see great value in forging a stronger, more vital relationship between the university’s academic and athletic programs.

“This is an incredible example of how the UO’s academic and athletic programs can come together and produce success on many levels,” said Kenda Singer, a retired physician’s assistant who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at the UO in 1974. She is the daughter of Dr. Kendall Hills, a former UO team physician, and she participated actively for several years in the care of UO’s women athletes.

Ken Singer’s involvement in the human physiology program began in the late 1970s when he was a guest lecturer and participated actively in graduate students' research projects and theses. An emeritus partner of the Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, he served as a team orthopedic surgeon for the Ducks from 1979 through 2012. A graduate of MIT and Columbia University, he recently taught a graduate level course as a visiting professor in human physiology.                                                 

“Kenda and I have spent a fair amount of time with everyone on the faculty,” he said, “and the excellence of their research amazes us. Supporting the UO is essential because the state has cut funding so much over the years. We do it gladly.”

The Eugene couple met years ago on the UO practice fields while volunteering their skills to help the athletes. Longtime UO donors, they said this gift fuses their shared passion for medicine, higher education and helping student-athletes.

In addition to earlier gifts for human physiology, the Singers’ support for the UO includes funding for the Singer Science Librarian, the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies, a faculty research fellowship in the Humanities Center, graduate fellowships in art and dance, and scholarships for student athletes. Their Singer Family Foundation provides 15 four-year scholarships for Eugene and Springfield students every year, and their support extends to other organizations in the local area, primarily focused on education.

By Melody Leslie, University Communications