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Phil Knight gives $500 million to University of Oregon for science campus

Phil and Penny Knight made a $500 million donation to the University of Oregon to launch a new science campus.

EUGENE, Ore. – Phil and Penny Knight made a $500 million donation to the University of Oregon to launch a new science campus.

The money will fund the Phil and Penny Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, which will include three new buildings to train “the next generation of scientists,” according to an email from University of Oregon President Michael Schill.

"The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact will fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations, products, and cures that solve problems and improve our quality of life," Schill said.

Watch: UO announces the donation

“It's absolutely amazing. It's going to be a very, very wonderful thing for future graduate students and scientists here,” said Jennifer Hampton, a graduate student.

“So the idea is really that we have wonderful basic science going on, on campus. But we really want to see how we can accelerate the ways in which the discoveries that we make here can impact society,” said Karen Guillemin, a professor of biology.

Guillemin said the new campus will be home to different types of science research, development of new products and potentially big breakthroughs.

She said if someone has a good idea, they won't have to wait years for federal funding.

“There's also going to be internal funding to allow scientists who have new ideas to immediately start to explore those ideas,” she said.

The $500 million gift is the largest ever to a public university, Schill said.

More: A rare one-on-one interview with Phil Knight

Phil Knight, who attended UO and co-founded Nike, has made numerous large donations to the university.

The Knights are the most generous philanthropists in Oregon history, with lifetime gifts in excess of $2 billion. They most recently gave $400 million to Stanford for a West Coast version of the Rhodes Scholarship.

When finished, the new $1 billion campus will include three 70,000-square-foot buildings next to the university's existing science complex. It will include labs and research facilities.

"The Knight Campus will be positioned at the intersection of science and society, working to create solutions for the greater good," said UO biology professor Patrick Phillips. "Creating impact and speeding up the research-and-development cycle will be at the heart of everything we do."

KGW's Christine Pitawanich contributed to this story.

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