On his 56th birthday, Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny and his wife Stephanie donated $1 million to University academic programs, and Kilkenny’s annual half-million dollar salary will be split between academics and the athletic department this year and next.
University President Dave Frohnmayer announced the Kilkennys’ gift at a press conference Thursday. Frohnmayer called the donation “an extraordinary gift from an extraordinary couple.”
When Frohnmayer made the admittedly unconventional hire just over a year ago, “part of (Kilkenny’s) job was to reach, quite literally, over the river,” Frohnmayer said. “Their investment will help to unite our athletic and academic endeavors at the University of Oregon.”
Kilkenny said the idea of the gift – “trail-blazing,” just like the University – is to find ways in which athletics and academics can be fused.
“I know some of you really don’t like our uniforms, but our kids love them,” Kilkenny quipped. “The gift really is about innovation.”
The $1 million donation will establish two academic programs. The first is “Competition Not Conflict,” which will feature classes within the Knight Law Center that focus on conflict resolution in sports.
“We had years where this was just to us a good idea,” said School of Law associate professor Michael Moffitt, “and it is now with the Kilkennys’ gift that this can be more than just a good idea.”
The second program is an intersection of the School of Journalism and Communication, the Lundquist College of Business and the athletic department. The education and research initiative will train and teach students who hope to become athletic directors. Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center within the business school, noted that four current athletics department directors are University of Oregon graduates. Myles Brand, NCAA president, is a former University of Oregon president. Brand’s second-in-command graduated from the University.
“Sports is in our DNA,” Swangard said, making the University “a natural place” to employ the education program.
PathwayOregon, the new program that offers selected low-income students a tuition-free education, will receive $27,500 from Kilkenny – the first private donation to the program. It will allow PathwayOregon leadership to initiate a fundraising drive, Provost Linda Brady said.
“Pat Kilkenny has been engaged in building a new bridge to this side of the University,” Brady said. “I can tell you that Pat is as firmly committed to academics as he is to athletics.”
The Coaches Fund, which was established last month and uses coaches’ and administrators’ donations to support UO Libraries, will receive $12,500 of the donation.
The academic half of Kilkenny’s $500,000 salary donation will create the Kilkenny Service and Leadership Fund, which will provide grants for students to participate in hands-on educational community service projects. The athletic half will go toward non-revenue athletic purposes, such as softball facility improvements.
“After more than a decade as a donor and a leader, Pat spent the past year giving us his most precious gift to date: his time,” Frohnmayer said. “Now Pat and Stephanie are giving even more. Their investment will help unite academic and athletics at the University of Oregon.”