A Capital Idea

The cafés are closed and the Fishbowl is quiet on this sunny October Saturday when Dave Petrone, BS ’66, MBA ’68, arrives sporting a bright green Oregon Ducks hoodie and even brighter yellow Nikes. It’s four hours till kickoff against Washington, and Petrone, in his game-day gear, is clearly ready to win the day (which the Ducks will do handily, beating the Huskies 45–20). But before he heads to Autzen, he’ll head this afternoon’s meeting of the university’s Campaign Cabinet, which he’s agreed to chair. It will be the first meeting of this group of fundraising volunteers, a group Petrone hopes will set the tone for the levels of engagement, excitement, and relationship-building that will make the campaign successful.

The night before, at a gala celebration for more than 750 of the UO’s most magnanimous volunteers and supporters, Interim President Scott Coltrane publicly announced the university’s intent to raise $2 billion—the largest fundraising campaign goal in the state’s history. “Does $2 billion sound ambitious?” says Petrone. “Absolutely it does. Will we accomplish it? I feel we will . . . and hopefully we’ll do better.”

Petrone speaks from a place of passion for his alma mater—he has served on multiple volunteer boards, and he and his wife, Nancy Petrone, have donated millions to the UO over the years to support such endeavors as the Women in Flight program and the James F. Miller Theater Complex. Their most recent gift, announced just a few days earlier, is $1 million to restore the Fishbowl, where Petrone now sits at a small table next to the bank of large, curved windows that gives the space its name. “Everyone who ever went here spent time at the Fishbowl,” he says, recalling that he was there nearly every day as a student, studying, getting coffee, or meeting friends. “Everyone remembers it, and it makes people smile. And you think about not only the people who’ve been here, but all the people, the young people, who are going to go through here. It’s a fun gift to be associated with.”

But when Petrone talks about this campaign, he also draws on considerable expertise. After earning a BS in economics and an MBA in finance at the UO, he built a successful business career, including a long tenure at Wells Fargo, and more recently as chairman of Housing Capital Company. A trustee emeritus of the UO Foundation, he chaired the leadership committee for the UO’s first major capital campaign. “In 1992, when I got involved,” he says, “we’d never had a campaign. We knew little about fundraising, and we didn’t have buy-in from the faculty, the trustees, or anybody, really. But the team came together, and it succeeded. We set a stretch goal of $150 million, which the consultant said should have been $125 million. We ended up with $250 million.”

The UO’s next campaign, which launched in 2001 and ended in 2008, exceeded its $600 million goal by more than 30 percent. So a pattern has been established. Still, what gives Petrone confidence that Oregon can do it again, and can do it now?

“For me,” he says, “it’s always about the people. I don’t think a university could have a better leadership team than we do. They all have the mission of making this place excellent. We have the theme, we have the brand—this is a very popular school—and we have the collaboration. Look at the new sports product management program. It includes almost every part of this university. It’s mostly triple-A [Architecture and Allied Arts] and business, but it also includes law, journalism, green chemistry, and human physiology. The teamwork inside the university is much different than it was in 1992, much different.”


Frances Bronet is acting senior vice president and provost, a temporary departure from her role as dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts. She echoes Petrone’s confidence in the level of teamwork among faculty members and administrators, describing the process used to determine the campaign’s priorities, which are concentrated around support for students and faculty members, as intensely collaborative. Last year, the leaders of each of the UO’s schools and colleges, as well as many administrative, outreach, and research units, developed individual lists of fundraising priorities for their areas. “Then the leaders came together,” says Bronet, “and we kept presenting and re-presenting them to each other.” As they shared documents and ideas, overlapping missions and goals emerged. “It was clear that many of us were interested in scholarships, student life, building graduate education, and faculty support, which shows up in named professorships or chairs, fellowships, research support. We kept sharing our documents, honing them down, so that we had common purpose.

“It’s something I take totally for granted in this institution,” continues Bronet, who came to the UO from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York in 2005. “But I realize, when I speak to colleagues across the nation, that this level of collaboration and engagement is unique. We have a level of mutual respect, as well as an understanding of what is going on in other people’s units. We all think it’s critical, not just relevant, to know what’s going on in the professional schools, in science, in humanities and social sciences, and in the daily patterns of our students’ lives—because there might be some incredible synergy or mode of discipline-specific learning that we could tap to completely change the nature of education.”


The recognition that the UO’s culture of cross-disciplinary collaboration could be key to achieving success is reflected in a new faculty hiring initiative that underpins the campaign’s stated focus on “access, excellence, and the UO experience.” Last year, Senior Vice President and Provost Scott Coltrane (who is currently serving as interim president) put out a call to the faculty to submit proposals for “clusters of excellence.” He explains, “We have targeted areas where, by hiring three to five new faculty members, we can be competitive with the most cutting-edge research programs in the country.” Of the 34 proposals received, 10 were identified as priorities, with such diverse foci as obesity prevention, volcanology, sports product design, and sustainable materials.

“As a research university,” says Coltrane, “we can provide our students the experience of being able to work directly with the knowledge-producers. Our faculty members are the scientists and creative artists and scholars who are actually creating new fields and discovering new ways of thinking about and understanding the world in ways that are just phenomenal.” The degree of targeted investment this campaign will make possible is new for this university, says Coltrane, who also emphasizes that the campaign is being launched at “a historic moment” for the UO, as it transitions from statewide to institutional governance and adapts to a reality in which state support of public universities is significantly lower than in the past. “One of the main emphases is on increasing the endowment,” he says. “We’re looking at the long-term security of the university, to stabilize the university for the well-being of generations to come.”


The emphasis on building the university’s endowment speaks to another key focus of the campaign, access to high-quality higher education for more students, especially Oregon students. “This campaign is heavily focused on student access, the quality of our faculty and support of research and scholarly work, and our commitment to the community—those are the core virtues and values of a public university,” says Mike Andreasen. As vice president for advancement, Andreasen oversees the teams of strategists, development officers, communicators, and many others who will devote the next several years to hitting the $2 billion goal. He likes what such an aspirational—some would say audacious—goal represents for the UO. “It’s a bold declaration of what the future of the University of Oregon should be, what we intend it to be,” he says. “This university is fully committed to being among the very best public research residential campuses in the country, and we intend to deliver on that promise to our students and faculty.”

—By Ann Wiens