$10M gift will boost UO’s innovation and entrepreneurship efforts

The Lundquist College of Business and the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact are celebrating a new $10 million gift to the University of Oregon in support of innovation and entrepreneurship as well as faculty excellence.

Sue Cameron McDonald and her husband, Dave, along with Paul Cameron and his wife, Megan, are making the gift from the estate of Gerry and Marilyn Cameron per their parents’ last wishes. Gerry and Marilyn were dedicated Ducks and philanthropists who have left a lasting legacy on the University of Oregon through their support of students, faculty and programs. During their lifetime, Gerry and Marilyn Cameron established the Cameron Center for Finance and Securities Analysis, the Cameron Chair in Finance, the Cameron Accounting Faculty Excellence Fund, the Cameron Finance Suite, and several scholarships.

“For us, it was very important to honor the legacy of our parents,” said Sue McDonald, Gerry and Marilyn’s daughter. “They loved the University of Oregon and helping its students succeed. So, when we were approached about supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, faculty and student startups at the University of Oregon, we felt it was a fantastic way to honor our parents and their passion. For them, there was nothing more important than education. They made it clear to us throughout their lifetimes that this is what they wanted.”

In fact, their dad would not have been able to attend college if it was not for a scholarship, they said.

“We are honored to be representing them in making this gift to the university,” said Paul Cameron, Gerry and Marilyn’s son.

This transformative gift under new UO President Karl Scholz will support initiatives in the Lundquist College of Business and Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

“This gift is accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon, and I hope it will inspire others to invest in this area of strategic importance to our institution,” Scholz said. “We have always been about innovation at the University of Oregon. It is our legacy and our future. Thank you, Gerry and Marilyn, Sue and Paul, and the Cameron and McDonald families, for making a lasting impact on our students, the university, the state and the world.”

The Cameron family exemplifies how investments in higher education change lives. From a difficult childhood, Gerry Cameron’s life trajectory changed when a teacher who believed in him encouraged him to apply for a scholarship. From that point, a life full of opportunity was set in motion, including meeting Marilyn and studying at the University of Oregon.

“The Cameron and McDonald families are helping to build bridges across campus and fund initiatives that will get innovations to market faster,” said Bruce Blonigen, Edward Maletis Dean of the Lundquist College. 

Along with the Oregon Innovation Challenge, a new program that last year mentored more than 200 student startups and ventures across campus, the family’s support will fund a Cameron Entrepreneur in Residence to help advise and mentor students and others across campus. 

“This gift will enable us to further grow our innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives where faculty, staff and students work together with scientists to evaluate and identify the market potential of emerging technologies and discoveries, particularly those coming out of the Knight Campus,” Blonigen said. “In addition, their gift will create the Cameron Family Faculty Fund, which will support faculty excellence across the Lundquist College of Business, helping us to attract and retain even more top professors to grow these programs.”

“The remarkable generosity of the Cameron and McDonald families will enable our students to take more risks and raise their success rate as they seek to translate their ideas into impact,” said Bob Guldberg , vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director for the Knight Campus. “It will enable us to award fellowships to Ph.D. students in bioengineering so they can bring innovations to market faster through their coursework and collaborations with business students and faculty.”

According to McDonald and Cameron, absolutely nothing was more important to their parents than education.

“Our parents always looked for ways to provide opportunities for students, present and future, to be able to succeed,” McDonald said. “We’ve always been inspired by that student energy and passion. I think our parents would have been thrilled to know their gift will invest in helping students to succeed and bring and pursue new ideas.”

Jeff Sorensen, director of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship and founder and organizer for the Oregon Innovation Challenge, said the impact of gifts like the Camerons’ is far-reaching.

“Because of this family’s generosity, we will be able to support and fund even more of the innovative ideas, businesses, technologies and social programs that UO students envision,” Sorensen said. “This gift is really a vote of confidence in the next generation, empowering students around campus to pursue their ideas, passions and dreams. Thank you, Gerry and Marilyn and the Cameron and McDonald families.”

Top photo: Sue (Cameron) McDonald and Paul Cameron with UO President Karl Scholz (center)