Phil and Penny Knight, arguably Oregon's most prominent couple, were recognized earlier this month as the leading philanthropists in the nation.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy listed the Nike co-founder and his wife as the top donors in its annual ranking of the 50 most charitable Americans. It marked the first time the Knights topped the list in the 17 years the news organization has been compiling the rankings. They have appeared on the list five other times.
Collectively, the top 50 donors gave $5.6 billion in 2016, with close to half of that figure going to academic causes. Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen came in at No. 4 with gifts totaling $295 million.
According to The Chronicle, the Knights gave or pledged $900 million to two schools close to their hearts.
They promised $400 million to Stanford University last February to kick start a global fellowship program tasked with creating the next generation of leaders. In October, the Knights pledged $500 million to the University of Oregon, part of a larger effort to raise $1 billion for a new science complex in Eugene. The UO gift is expected to be spaced out in $50 million installments over a decade.
The Knights have given an estimated $2 billion to largely academic and higher education causes over the past few decades.
Oregon Health & Science University received a $500 million commitment from the Knights to launch a cancer research institute in 2013. Oregon lawmakers then bolstered the gift wit $200 million in state bonds.Phil and Penny Knight to give $500 million to UO for science complex
The couple also gave Stanford $105 million in 2006, and have donated at least $300 million to his alma mater in Eugene to help the law school, library and 27 endowed professorships, as well as prominent athletics projects.
Knight received his undergraduate degree from UO in 1959, where he competed in track and field under legendary coach and future Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. Knight finished his MBA at Stanford in 1962.
-- Andrew Theen
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