In high school, I only dreamed of attending college, as I simply didn’t do well enough to apply anywhere. After spending one year in junior college, I started my journey at my dream school, the University of Oregon. I will be attending Oregon for two more years, and I am excited for what the future has in store.
One of the reasons that students choose Oregon over other schools is that the experiences they gain through attending sporting events make memories that cannot be imitated anywhere else. Phil Knight has played a very large part in making all of these experiences possible.
In the title, you’ll notice the nickname ”Uncle Phil,” and an uncle he truly has been to the University of Oregon. Despite Knight announcing he will step down as Nike’s Chairman, his lasting impact will forever be ingrained within Nike as a worldwide business entity, and within the University of Oregon as one of the best institutions in the United States.
Uncle Phil attended Oregon from 1955-1959, ultimately graduating with a B.S. in Business Administration. Knight was an excellent student, but his bread and butter was running. Knight might be 77 years of age now, but he ran a 4:10 mile back in college — catch him if you can.
Knight’s education continued at Stanford University. I’m pretty sure Knight attended Stanford without realizing the Cardinal would end up being brutal rivals with his alma mater. Knight excelled at Stanford, receiving his MBA in 1962. And if you think Knight took a lot of time off in his life after that, you’d be wrong.
In 1964, Uncle Phil had a brilliant idea. With his running background, and an education to rival some of the best in the world, his little seed of an idea blossomed into a flower. He and his former track coach, Bill Bowerman, each invested $500 in Blue Ribbon Sports, the precursor to Nike. Over time, Knight took the company to great heights: 50 years later, Nike is a worldwide brand, and Knight a billionaire.
At the University of Oregon, we know Knight as Uncle Phil. The few times I have seen Uncle Phil on campus have been very distinct memories for me. Besides just being in the presence of someone worth more than $20 Billion, I was in the presence of someone who had molded a portion of my life.
I always knew I wanted to write, and at FishDuck.com I got the chance to write about Oregon Ducks football. The more I attended Ducks games, wrote articles and researched everything surrounding Ducks sports, the more I realized how big a part that Uncle Phil played in making it all possible.
Knight has donated well over $300 million to the athletic department. The library is named in his honor, the basketball arena is named after his late son, Matthew, who died in a tragic scuba diving accident in El Salvador in 2004, and he personally wrote a $68 million check to fund construction of the football athletic facilities.
There are people who dislike Uncle Phil, alleging that he uses Chinese sweat shops to lower Nike’s manufacturing costs. However, as a student at Oregon I have personally seen the opportunities that he has created for thousands of people like myself.
Last week, it was reported that Knight contributed $500 million to Oregon Health and Science University for cancer research, matching the other $500 million raised. Cancer has affected my family in more ways than one, so hearing this news has further shown me the type of man Uncle Phil really is.
Uncle Phil, I will never be able to thank you enough. Not only did you have the willingness to create the Nike shirt, shorts and shoes that I am wearing right now, but you provided me, and so many others, with countless memories that will flash in front of my eyes until I die. Many athletes have chosen Oregon because of the opportunity that you have given them. To that point, many students have chosen Oregon because of what you have done for athletics. I wish you the best in your future endeavors, and I certainly hope to see you around campus again some time soon. ONCE A DUCK, ALWAYS A DUCK.
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove