About two weeks ago the Portland Oregonian newspaper ran a snarky story by Rachel Bachman how the Phil Knight-funded Jaqua academic center for student athletes at the University of Oregon cost $41.7 million dollars.(See post below with link to story) Today, there is an ad supporting Knight in the Oregonian along with a "letter to the editor:"
Dear Penny and Phil,
On behalf of 180,000 alumni worldwide, students and faculty, we thank you for your generous support to the University of Oregon over the years. From the Knight Library, to the Knight Law School, to endowed chairs and professorships across campus, to athletics, your time and money have helped make the University of Oregon the excellent institution that it is today. Thank you for just doing it. Sincerely, University of Oregon Foundation Board of Trustees
THE LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
UO and Phil Knight
I was disappointed to see that The Oregonian put as its lead story a gift by Phil Knight to the University of Oregon that focused almost solely on the purported cost of the Jaqua Center instead of the generosity that lies behind the gift ("New UO center's price: $41.7 million," Aug. 7).
For two decades now, the University of Oregon along with the other six public higher education institutions, has received a decreasing amount of state funding as a percentage of the overall institutional budget. Today UO receives only 9 percent of its overall revenues from our lawmakers in Salem. Private funding has never been more important than it is now.
Phil and Penny Knight have led the way with gifts to countless centers of the University of Oregon, including the library, law school, business school and, yes, the athletic department. Their generosity and leadership has in turn motivated many other private individuals to step up their giving to all areas of the university. Consider the benefit of the hundreds of construction jobs, design fees and permit fees that this higher level of giving has returned to the Eugene community during these most difficult economic times.
Phil Knight continues to be an inspiration to most Oregonians. This article should have been brief and to the point -- just three words: Thank you, Phil.
Maletis is a member of the University of Oregon Foundation board of trustees.
On August 10th the BEND BULLETIN newspaper had an editorial on the subject:
Oregonians have many reasons to be angry these days, but the University of Oregon's John E. Jaqua Center for Student Athletes isn't one of them.
Nonetheless, the 37,000-square-foot academic center has been generating resentment since it opened in January. Much of the facility is open only to athletes. The structure itself is, well, ostentatious. And building the thing, as The Oregonian reported Aug. 6, consumed a staggering amount of money. Including fees, permits, design, furniture, equipment and so on, the Jaqua Center cost nearly $42 million, or roughly $1,100 per square foot.
Cue the outrage.
"Forty million dollars buys a lot of new faculty, reduced class sizes, better facilities for the rest of campus," fumed UO Senate President Nathan Tublitz, who considers it "a travesty to spend so much money for the benefit of such a small subset of students who already receive enormous perks."
We would be thumping the outrage drum right beside Tublitz and other critics but for one little detail: The project was paid for entirely by U of O alumnus and Nike co-founder Phil Knight. In an ideal world, Knight-who has donated millions to endow faculty positions, expand the law school and so on-would pour more of his fortune into the university's academic infrastructure, even if that meant spending less on sports-related projects. But it's his money, and nobody should be shocked that sports occupy a prominent place in his philanthropic legacy, just as they have in his career. The guy didn't make his billions selling slide rules. He built a sporting-goods empire.
We suppose the university could reject Knight's generosity in the pursuit of some ideal. But that would be silly. All of us might wish he'd spend his fortune a little differently, but the university is undeniably better off with the projects he funds than without them.
Rather than complaining about the generosity of a successful Oregonian, critics of the Jaqua center would be better off asking what state policymakers are doing-or not doing-to produce the next Phil Knight.
As a friend said in an email to me it wasn't the general facts in Bachman's news story that bothered him (or me) it was the snarky tone of the story and many of her stories on Phil Knight and University of Oregon athletics.
Did you know that Phil and Penny Knight gave 100 million dollars to Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU)to fight cancer two year ago ?
We remembers for a long time the philanthropy of the Andrew Carnegie's and Phil Knight's of this world but in the long run their critics are forgotten.
Thanks Phil and Penny Knight for all you do for this state. Go Ducks!