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Philanthropic support soaring at SOU

Philanthropic giving increasing significantly at SOU

Philanthropic support of SOU has soared over the past five years, the result of an intensive effort to transition the university toward a future of sustainable financial operations and improved student access.

New gifts and pledges grew nearly 125% over that period, according to Janet Fratella, vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the SOU Foundation.

“In 2022, we received the two largest gifts in our history, and we are on pace to continue setting new records as we embark on the university’s inaugural comprehensive campaign,” Fratella said.

Philanthropy has become a pivotal piece of revenue for public universities across the country over the past 30 years.

“As funding from the state has declined, the need for private gifts has increased and this added revenue over the long-term helps offset a continuing need to increase tuition, year after year,” Fratella said.

Investments from the university and its foundation over the past several years have provided the needed infrastructure to increase giving in new and significant ways.

“Philanthropy  is one of the new financial bedrocks of SOU, along with the strategic realignment of our operations and programs, targeted grant applications and entrepreneurial opportunities to create new revenue streams,” President Rick Bailey said.

The university received a $3 million estate gift in early 2022 from legendary wrestling coach Bob Riehm, who passed away in November 2020. A third of the gift endowed the men’s wrestling head coach position and two-thirds will be used to fund scholarships for the team’s student-athletes.

Riehm coached the school’s wrestling program for 25 years beginning in 1969, winning three national championships and mentoring 100 NAIA All-Americans. He compiled a 270-71-2 career record and has been inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the SOU Sports Hall of Fame.

Bailey, Fratella and others announced in September what is easily the single largest gift in the university’s 150-year history – a whopping $12 million over 10 years from Lithia Motors, a Medford-based Fortune 200 company. The gift created the Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund, which will be used “to propel the university forward by investing in people and programs to implement the university’s and the company’s shared vision of sustainability and diversity.”

According to Bailey, the Lithia commitment will likely become a catalyst for other companies and individuals to participate in making a significant difference in both social and environmental change.

“A gift of this magnitude and scope has the potential to increase our national profile,” President Bailey said.

The Momentum Fund establishes a $5 million scholarship and leadership development program designed to recruit and retain first-generation and/or minoritized populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The first cohort of scholars will be named in 2023.

Another $4 million from the Momentum Fund will be used to establish the Institute for Applied Sustainability, which will be anchored by four distinguished faculty members and two administrators – all of whom bring sustainability expertise into their work, academic research or teaching. The institute will be led by Vince Smith, Ph.D., professor of environmental science and policy and director of the Division of Business, Communication and Environment. Members include Pavilina McGrady, Ph.D., associate professor of business; Bret Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of economics; Christopher Lucas, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Communication, Media and Cinema Program; Jessica Piekielek, Ph.D., professor of anthropology; and Rebecca Walker, the university’s sustainability director.

The institute’s mission will be to identify and implement initiatives that move the university toward sustainability in campus operations and leadership. Its members will collaborate with executives from Lithia to develop projects and programs, such as the creation of a national sustainability conference, an academic credential in corporate sustainability and a national sustainability demonstration site.

The Momentum Fund also provides $1 million to support the university president’s efforts to develop  new ways of solving complex problems, and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to the Momentum Fund, Lithia & GreenCars have pledged to “electrify” SOU by providing electric vehicles to the university and installing charging stations across campus.

Finally, the company will continue to support the Lithia & GreenCars/Raider Golf Tournament, building upon many years of SOU athletic programs success. Proceeds from the annual tournament – which has raised more than $600,000 in each of the past two years – are used to provide scholarships to student-athletes.

“As we continue to engage more and more of our alumni and donors in the life of the university and demonstrate the impact of giving, we will see continued support and success,” Fratella said.