- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The University of Oregon has set a big goal for itself - raise $2 billion by 2018 and make sure the money lines up primarily behind scholarships for Oregon students and salaries and facilities for world-class faculty members in just 10 specialties, including obesity prevention and nanochemistry.

To meet its goal, UO will have to raise twice as much money as any university in Oregon history and 2.3 times as much as it raised on its last attempt.

It would not come close to national records, however. The University of Michigan is more than $1.7 billion into a $4 billion fundraising drive.

Michael Andreasen, who left a fundraising job at Michigan to become the fundraising vice president at the University of Oregon in 2010, is the brains and orchestrator of the UO’s hunt for $2 billion in gifts.

Much of the attention will focus on donors wealthy enough to give at least $1 million, he said. UO officials will work hard to figure out which fundraising priority - scholarships for low-income Oregon students, making UO an international leader in volcanoes and geothermal energy or restoring the eminence of UO’s genetics research, for example - will excite each potential big donor.

Some of the University of Oregon’s bigger strengths aren’t on the priority list for donor dollars. Football and distance running aren’t campaign themes. Nor are classical liberal arts a big target.

Instead, think hard sciences, cutting-edge technology, and fields in which students would likely be able to find high-paying jobs. UO will try to sell donors on forking over big bucks to propel the university to greatness in those.

Will it work?

Andreasen points to past donations, including Lorry Lokey’s two huge donations totaling $25 million to create an integrated science program and Don and Willie Tykeoson’s $10 million for the College of Arts & Sciences and student career advising.

He did not mention any donation by UO Giver in Chief Phil Knight, who has made mega-million contributions to academics but over the past decade has given almost exclusively to Ducks athletics. Matthew Knight Arena, the UO football performance center, Autzen Stadium, trophies won by men’s and women’s track and cross country teams and the football team’s current record all gleam thanks to Knight’s monster-sized contributions.

Big donors’ interests will naturally influence whether and for what they choose to give to UO, Andreasen acknowledged. “The large gifts are really more driven by the individuals who can make those wonderful gifts,” he said.

But he said he and other leaders of the campaign will try to steer potential big donors toward UO priorities by having them meet with the students and faculty members who would most directly benefit from donors giving to student scholarships or the 10 academic “clusters” where UO wants to make big hires.

“We are talking to donors who have the ability to make the large $1 million-plus gifts and we’re trying to share with them and have them meet with our students and our faculty… and say, ‘Your philanthropy can have a real impact’… We to try to match their interests with investing in one or more of these areas.”

What are those areas?

Sustainable energy and materials, the intersection of biological networks and computer science and prevention and treatment for cognitive disabilities made the list. Native American studies, environmental humanities, folklore and indigenous education did not.

UO is open about which 10 proposals were the lucky winners as judged by deans, faculty and other leaders at UO - and which 26 didn’t make the cut. A joint program by the school of arts and architecture and the business school, in sports product design and marketing, made that Top 10 - even though it’s still in a conceptual phase and hasn’t gained state approval.

The 10 winners “cross the entire spectrum of the campus. These are areas of strength and we intend to build upon them,” Andreasen said.

No one has ever tried to raise $2 billion worth of donations in Oregon before, but Andreasen said he is confident it will happen. Only a seriously slumping economy could get in the way, he said.

“We intend to achieve the goal. We are going to be really at it.”

He wants to be able to announce a raft of significant gifts in the next several months because early success will attract the strongest potential candidates to fill the UO president’s job, he said. The position is open after the newly installed Board of Trustees ousted Michael Gottfredson in August after just two years on the job.

The next president will be the first selected by a board loyal only to UO, not a statewide higher education board, and hopes in Eugene are high that the school can attract a winner, despite its last-in-league rankings among Association of American Universities schools. Gobs more money will be instrumental to changing that rank.

“I am confident a large strong and vibrant campaign will really attract the best presidential candidates.” Andreasen said. “They’ll know the donor community cares and is committed to the future of the university. It will inspire the best candidates to look to the university of Oregon to say, This is a place where I can really come and fly.’”

Andreasen didn’t volunteer Phil Knight’s name, but was happy to talk about him when prompted. It’s clear UO is counting on more big gifts from the Nike founder who, with his wife, has already given at least $300 million to his alma mater.

“Phil and Penny Knight are just extraordinary philanthropists, not just to Oregon. We are so grateful for what they have done for the university, what they have done for the state, for higher education. We are honored to have them among our donor community. We are just for grateful for what they have done and we know will continue to do.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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