University of Oregon expects billions from donors

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The wealthy donors who said they would open their wallets if the University of Oregon got an independent governing board are going to be asked to make good on their promises.

University leaders plan to start a four-year capital campaign this fall to raise billions, and a major goal will be creating endowments to attract top professors, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.

"Someplace between $2 (billion) and $3 billion," said Chuck Lillis, president of the new Board of Trustees. "We're not fishing for bait here."

Lillis, who made his money in telecommunications and private equity investing, was a member with other prominent university alumni of a political action committee called Oregonians for Higher Education Excellence. Members said they were frustrated by the state's unwillingness or inability to provide its universities with at least a stable budget.

Others included Nike's Phil Knight; the university's former athletic director, Pat Kilkenny; and Columbia Distributing CEO Edward Maletis.

The Legislature allowed the public universities to set up independent boards, and the University of Oregon's panel takes over July 1.

A university vice president, Michael Andreasen, said he and university President Michael Gottfredson have been talking to "some of those folks ... and they've assured us that, 'Yes, this is the time to make the ask.'"

The campaign is expected to roll out in October, he said. A second goal will be to raise scholarship money.

The success of the campaign will rest on the generosity of a "handful of folks," he said. "The truth is, 5 percent of the donors raise 95 percent of the money."

Bringing in top teaching talent is a key to maintaining the university's place in the exclusive Association of American Universities, 62 of the top research institutions in the country, university leaders say.

Gottfredson said it's a problem in the association's eyes that the university hires less expensive adjunct instructors rather than bringing in tenure-track faculty members.

"We're down 200 to 250 tenure-track faculty," he said. "That's a big number, and it sets us apart."

The school wants to add acclaimed faculty in 10 promising research areas that it calls "clusters of excellence," such as Energy and Sustainable Materials, Center for Genome Function, Sports Products Initiative, and Volcanology.

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Information from: The Register-Guard