An Open Letter to a Favorite Uncle


Dear Mr. Knight,

I’ve long considered writing this letter to you. Whenever I speak of our wonderful university, your name is as unavoidable as the sight of Pioneer Father as I stroll through campus. I remember two times when I was a student at the University of Oregon, attending a football game, you walked past me and I wanted so badly to stop you and speak with you for just a moment. But I was too shy and didn’t want to bother you—I understand the sanctity of Saturdays at Autzen Stadium.

What I would have said to you then is what I write now: thank you. The library that you helped build was my sanctuary. For three years the Knight Library was the building full of all the answers I sought. My wife would drop me off there at 7:30 on her way to work, so I could study in the morning. When it was winter and we couldn’t afford the luxury of turning on our heat, it was where I could go to read my texts with hands not trembling. I am a high school teacher now, and when I speak of the beauty of a well-stocked library I do my best to shape their imaginations to the inside of your library.

I have friends and former students who worked their way through the law school with your last name on it. It is beautiful, they tell me. Some of the brightest students I’ve pointed toward the university have returned from visits marveling at the beauty of buildings with your name on them. Some of Oregon’s finest young minds have chosen our school and to keep their talent inside the borders of our state thanks to how you have helped transform the university. Thank you.

Our athletic facilities are second to none, for both the athletes and the fans. The impact that having wonderful stadiums, thanks to your contributions, has had on students, student-athletes, and community members cannot be overstated. Thank you.

Now, I know that you aren’t the only one responsible for all the wonderful things at the university. I know that you are also not without controversy. I was a student during the 2000 scrum. But I do appreciate everything you’ve done for my alma mater. Outside of my wonderful professors and supportive wife, you have had more of an influence on my education than any other person. Thank you.

Gabe Judah

P.S. While I wrote this letter expressing my own opinions, I hope that others on whose life you have had an impact feel free to say thank you in their own way in the comments below.

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Gabe Judah

Gabe Judah

Gabe Judah (Editor and Writer) is a high school educator, two time UofO graduate, a frenzied father of two, a fortunate husband of one, and a thoughtful fan of Duck athletics. While at the UofO, Gave pitched for the club baseball team, but perhaps his greatest contribution to Oregon sports was when he helped a Sporting News All-American safety pass a 200 level Spanish class.

  • fishduck

    How many times have I wanted to write something like this…but could not find the words? The gratitude of so many Oregonians will never truly be known by him and his wife–especially now with their new gift to OHSU. Their generosity has, and will impact so many lives in a positive way for generations, that it is truly difficult to measure the impact.

    We are all so grateful; thank you Phil & Penny Knight!


    P.S. And thanks to Gabe for a wonderful expression of what so many of us feel…