University of Oregon alumnus and Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny Knight are donating a $500 million “lead gift” to create a three-building, 70,000 square foot campus: the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

According to a UO release, the donation is the “largest ever for a public flagship institution.” The entire campus will cost an estimated $1 billion.

Although no firm timeline is given, the release states that the project is “something that will unfold over the next decade,” and the university aims to have the first building in place within three years.

“In an age of declining public support for scientific research generally and declining public higher education support specifically, Penny and I are delighted to contribute to these critically important areas,” Phil Knight said in the release.

UO estimates that the project will have a $99.7 million economic impact on the the state of Oregon during peak construction and stimulate nearly $80 million statewide annually once completed.

Conceptual designs show the campus along the north side Franklin Boulevard, across the street from UO’s Lokey science complex, where Domino’s Pizza and Evergreen Indian Cuisine are currently located. The release says the campus will house “cutting-edge labs, research facilities, prototyping tools, imaging facilities, human subject interaction space and an innovation hub.”

UO biology professor and acting executive director of the Knight Campus Patrick Phillips. (Courtesy of Around the O)

According to the release, UO aims to begin recruiting new scientists immediately. Initial hires will be researchers in the life sciences.

UO biology professor Patrick Phillips was named the acting executive director of the campus. The university plans to begin a nationwide search for a permanent director immediately.

“This is a seminal moment for the University of Oregon, an inflection point that will shape the trajectory of the university for the next century and beyond,” Schill said.

Knight donated $500 million to OHSU in 2015 after the university succeeded in meeting his challenge of fundraising $500 million in less than two years. The project’s aim was to “overhaul early detection of lethal cancers.”

According to an email sent to UO students on Oct. 10, UO President Michael Schill will be speaking tomorrow on the “latest hopes for our university related specifically to how we will enhance our research enterprise and accelerate our impact on society.” The speech is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. in the Giustina Ballroom of the Ford Alumni Center.

Correction: A previous version of this article connected the donation to the STEM CORE program. There is no association between the program and this project, the error has been corrected.

Please consider donating to the Emerald. We are an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting and educating this generation's best journalists. Your donation helps pay equipment costs, travel, payroll, and more!