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In our opinion: OHSU hits the field running in cancer showdown

Phil Knight vows he will match $500 million in donations toward cancer research


Phil Knight wants to do for cancer research in Oregon what he’s attempted to do for the University of Oregon Ducks football team: take it to the highest levels of accomplishment and nationwide recognition.

Instead of building a program in 20 years, though, Knight has compressed the time schedule to two years. If he and his teammates at the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation and OHSU Knight Cancer Institute succeed, they will have broken new ground in the field of philanthropy, altered the Portland economic landscape and carried OHSU’s cancer institute to new heights.Oct. 30 editorial

Potentially saving lives is much more important than the game of football. Yet, Knight’s determination to win is evident in the audacity of the challenge he presented to OHSU officials in September. At that time, the Nike co-founder pledged $500 million — half a billion dollars — if OHSU could raise an equivalent amount in just two years.

The size of that challenge is immediately apparent, but we gained an even greater appreciation for its dimensions after reading Portland Tribune reporter Peter Korn’s Oct. 17 article on the topic. Experts in the philanthropy field say no one has ever tried to raise matching funds of that magnitude in such a short period of time. They even say, if the campaign is successful, it could change how philanthropy is done worldwide.

Making Oregon a trendsetter in philanthropy would be another side benefit if OHSU is able to pull this off. The clock, however, is already ticking, and the outcome is less than certain. People involved with philanthropy say the quickest route to success would be to tap people with the ability to give $1 million or more.

This list could include OHSU’s current major donors, other foundations and contributors who’ve never been approached before. Also, according to the experts, it could include Nike suppliers and athletes who’ve been helped by Nike along the way — a potential source of nonconventional donors.

Most of us don’t play in any of those leagues, but ordinary Portland-area residents shouldn’t ignore this campaign. It may be the biggest opportunity this region will ever see in terms of advancing cancer research, attracting economic development, and putting OHSU even more firmly on the national map.

What this campaign doesn’t need is for people to take a cynical approach, impugning donors’ motives or dismissing the chance for victory. Rather, it would benefit from a dedicated base of fans who not only give what they can, but who also cheer those who give more and pitch in wherever needed.




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