Oregon president: 'Offended by implications ...'

1/13/2006 - Oregon Ducks

The following is a letter from University of Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer regarding an ESPN.com story that examined booster Phil Knight and his relationship with the Oregon athletic program:

As president of the University of Oregon, I was offended by implications contained in your recent article about the motives of Phil Knight regarding his very generous contributions to the University of Oregon.

Phil Knight has given the university many tens of millions of dollars because he takes great pride in his alma mater. He wants it to be the best school possible, in both academics and athletics. Any university would consider itself lucky to count among its alumni such a distinguished individual, capable of building one of the world's most important corporations out of the back of a van. Is it any wonder that we would value his ideas and views?

We are proud to call Phil Knight and his family friends of the University of Oregon. We also consider as friends the tens of thousands of other donors who donated more than $90 million last year alone.

Your article implied that donors, especially generous donors such as Phil Knight, exercise undue influence over the governance of this university's operations. That is simply not the case. Ascribing importance to the ideas and thoughts of involved supporters deserved better than cynical stick figure caricatures.

We wish Mr. Fish had taken the time to consider more thoroughly the matters contained in his article. American universities do not attain greatness just by wishing for it. To denigrate the role important donors such as Phil Knight play in sustaining the academic and athletic health of schools such as Oregon is a serious disservice to philanthropy.

    Dave Frohnmayer
    President, University of Oregon