Stories of Impact

A Decade of Transformational Giving

In the Summer of 2021, the UO achieved the most ambitious and successful fundraising campaign ever undertaken in the state of Oregon. The College of Design’s goals as a part of this campaign were no less lofty, seeking to transform how we deliver a world-class education in architecture, art, design, planning, and policy. This massive undertaking has transformed the college, and as a result of thousands of individual acts of generosity, we now have new research centers, programs, endowed faculty positions, and vastly increased financial resources for students.

We want to look back at a handful of gifts from this campaign that showcase the potential of philanthropy to unlock opportunities to transform lives. Some of these gifts are large, others are comparatively small. Some gifts inspired others to act, while some acts were singular. All together a wide array of giving leaves us thankful and excited for the opportunities to come.     

Art DeMuro

Area of Impact: The Historic Preservation program in the School of Architecture & Environment

With his gift, the late Portland developer and preservationist Art DeMuro changed the trajectory of the entire Historic Preservation program—it is now the best-funded program of its kind on the West Coast. Beginning in 2011, DeMuro created vast new opportunities through a series of gifts totaling $5.5 million, enabling developments such as relocating the program from the Eugene campus to the historic White Stag Block in Portland, the hiring of the Venerable Chair in Historic Preservation and the Art DeMuro Professor in Historic Preservation, and funding graduate student support and research. In 2013, the University of Oregon honored DeMuro’s lasting and transformative impact with the prestigious Pioneer Award.

students restoring window

Sue and Mort Fuller

Area of Impact: The Overlook Field School for the Department of Landscape Architecture in the School of Architecture & Environment

Sue (Journalism, Class of 1971) and Mort Fuller created a unique and extraordinary experience for landscape architecture students when they founded the Overlook Field School in 2012 with an initial gift of $1 million. Thinking outside the box, the Fullers reimagined a 400-acre family retreat in rural Pennsylvania as an immersive school where landscape architecture students can live and learn for a four-week period each summer. On the site, while earning six UO credits, students collaborate with faculty and experts-in-residence to explore how we imagine, value, steward, and regenerate landscapes.

“Quite simply, the Overlook Field School has transformed the Landscape Architecture Department,” said Liska Chan, an associate professor of Landscape Architecture and former program manager for the school. “Not only has it extended our reach to the East Coast, including exposure to prominent firms, but it also expands the creative and cultural perspectives of our students and alumni, opening opportunities previously inaccessible to them.”

Landscape Architecture Professor of Practice and current Overlook Program Manager Michael Geffel says that the final landscape installations done by students are often recognized by American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)-Oregon awards.

“By removing the distractions of everyday life, this fully-funded program functions as an artist residency for students,” said Geffel. “Several alums have gone on to win ASLA-National research awards for projects that originated at Overlook.”

students with projects at Overlook Field School

Lease Crutcher Lewis Construction

Area of Impact: Design/Build Programming in the Department of Architecture

When Associate Professor of Architecture Rob Thallon had an idea in 2013 for a new design-build studio where students could engage in community and gain hands-on experience by designing and constructing affordable homes, he was looking for seed funding. Lease Crutcher Lewis answered the call with a gift of $75,000 and a truck for materials, and OregonBILDS (Building Integrated Livable Designs Sustainably) was born. In addition to providing critical real-world skills for students, this focused gift has helped create tangible improvements in the community, from developing six parcels of land into homes in West Eugene to creating affordable housing for veterans in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

“The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is moving toward the more effective use of design-build deliveries for new projects,” said Bart Ricketts, the CEO of Lease Crutcher Construction. “We wanted to ensure that students at the UO College of Design had hands-on experience in learning the value of integrated collaboration between design and construction craftsmanship.”

people loading lumber onto flatbed truck

Anonymous Gifts

Area of Impact: College of Design Student Services

In 2015, the College of Design needed to expand resources and services for students from the Office of Professional Outreach and Development for Students (PODS) to a more robust program to support student academic advising and career pathways. In early 2016, two anonymous donors, independent of one another, gave $1 million and $100,000 respectively.

“Financial gifts small and large have a powerful impact on programs and people,” said Kassia Dellabough, the longtime director of Student Services and senior instructor who retired in 2020. “They inspire and invest in the work we do. Small donations are also a gift of spirit, like a vote of confidence to fuel our efforts. Large gifts are tools to manifest the ideas that need funding to launch. One gift seeded a big idea to grow student advising and while the other gift insured stability, expansion, and the freedom to invest where it was most needed to ensure success into the future.”

students and professionals in roundtable discussions at the Student Services Symposium

Larry and Janice Bruton

Areas of Impact: College of Design, Department of Architecture

In 2013, ZGF Architects Design Partner and alum Larry Bruton, FAIA, BArch ’67, told Around the O that it was imperative to help attract and keep exceptional talent in Oregon.

“Why do we support higher education? For us, that’s easy, it’s the engine of our economy,” he said. “For example, architecture faculty research and teaching activities improve the quality of our built environment. The better we can train and teach future architects, the better for all of us.”

After consulting with Design faculty, he and his wife Janice Bruton established the Larry and Janice Bruton Fund for Design Excellence and the Larry and Janice Bruton Distinguished Visiting Chair in Architecture with a $5 million legacy gift.

“Larry and Janice Bruton prioritized cultivating future leaders of architecture, design, planning, policy, and the arts at the UO. Their gift is a testament to their commitment to design excellence at the University of Oregon, to higher education, and to the faculty and students at the College of Design.”


Joe and Alona Fischer Scholarship Fund

Areas of Impact: Scholarships in the Department of Art and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

Double Duck graduate (BFA ’60, MFA ’63) and painter Joe Fischer has said his time at the University of Oregon changed his life, and so he wanted to help change the lives of others. In 2019, he and his wife Alona Fischer made a gift of $300,000 to establish the Joe and Alona Fischer Scholarship to create a large single source of scholarship support for students studying fine arts.

“One reason I’m so dedicated to giving is the education I received,” said Fischer, who studied under the likes of then head of the Fine Arts Department Jack Wilkinson.

Amanda Wojick, the head of the Department of Art, said that the scholarship fund has made a tremendous difference in recruiting top MFA candidates such as Lily Wai Brennan, David Pena, William Zeng , and Anastasyisa Gutnik.

“During an especially challenging and precarious year, the funds provided invaluable support, both tangible and affirmational, for the diverse studio practices of this excellent incoming cohort,” Wojick said. “Our ability to make these awards upon their arrival in the fall helped to ease their transition and to get right to work on what matters most, making their art.”

Marion D. Ross Distinguished Professor of Architectural History Keith Eggener says the fund has already had a powerful impact on multiple students in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, including undergraduate student Morning Glory Ritchie.

“The Fischer gift enables people to realize their goals while also seeing that our field—traditionally the province of those of independent means—holds opportunities for people of all backgrounds,” Eggener said. “Being able to pursue one’s passion while also being compensated for it is one of the great gifts of a college education, and the Fischer scholarship has done much to share this gift with talented students demonstrating financial need.”


Robert and Catherine Gamblin

Areas of Impact: Center for Art Research, School of Art & Design

College of Design Director of Development Kyle Harris fondly remembers a 2017 conversation he had with renowned artist, art alum (’70), and 2014 Lawrence Medalist Robert Gamblin.

“He told me, ‘I want to do one big gift, but I want you to tell me where it will have the greatest impact,’” Harris said. “That’s music to a fundraiser’s ears.”

That conversation kickstarted a dialogue with art faculty leadership that culminated in the proposal to found the Center for Art Research (CFAR) with an endowed fund as a perpetual base of support. Since then, CFAR has become a hub for creative research, experimentation, and dialogue in contemporary art and design.

“The Gamblin gift continues to help us support the rich programming, lectures, conversations, and events within the Center for Art Research,” said Amanda Wojick, head of the Department of Art, pointing to the 2021 launch of the CFAR Project Incubator with the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. “This year the remote lectures, panels, and conversations conducted through CFAR over Zoom allowed the Department of Art to grow new and unexpected ideas and communities with artists and practitioners located near and far, and during such an isolating period of time.”

510 Oak exterior and interior

Miller Fund for Venture Philanthropy

Area of Impact: Master of Nonprofit Management program, School of Planning, Public Policy and Management

The impact of the Miller Fund for Venture Philanthropy gift has been both broad and deep in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management’s (PPPM) Nonprofit Management Program. Not only did the funding enable PPPM to invite expert speakers from across the country for the Impact Philanthropy course (PPPM 487/587), but it supported sending eight students and Associate Professors Renee Irvin and Saurabh Lall to the international venture philanthropy conferences of the European Venture Philanthropy Association in Oslo and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network in Singapore.

“Additionally, the funding helped student groups gain practical experience using the venture philanthropy approach to make a significant investment in a local nonprofit,” Lall explained. The funding enabled student groups to adopt a venture philanthropy approach to select a local nonprofit for a $10,000 grant each year. “Students benefited tremendously from the practical experience of working with real nonprofit organizations.”

group photo

Multiple Donors to the Design for Spatial Justice Initiative

Area of Impact: School of Architecture & Environment

The Design for Spatial Justice Initiative (DSJI) has big goals: to create a sea change in the field of architecture and design by supporting visiting faculty scholarship at the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, indigeneity, sexuality, and economic inequality that is enriched by their lived experience.

“This initiative is about being able to take on the toughest problems in the disciplines by building capacity to fully support students and faculty to bring their lived experiences at the intersection of identity and design to the table,” said Professor of Architecture Erin Moore, who spearheaded the initiative.

To create such vital and lasting change, it takes a village of supporters and advocates. The Design for Spatial Justice Initiative in the School of Architecture & Environment is supported by sustaining gifts from Wilson Smith III, The Miller/Hull Partnership, MG2, TVA Architects, Inc., and LEVER Architects with additional support from Mayer/Reed and Paulett Taggart Architects.

“We need to have justice in all arenas. Period,” said Smith (BArch ’80), a senior designer at Nike and 2018 Lawrence Medalist. “The world of design needs to be inclusive because it involves everybody.”

Since its 2019 launch, DSJI has hosted 17 Visiting Faculty Fellows, including the incoming 2021–22 cohort, and SAE has tracked a 50 percent increase in graduate applications from underrepresented groups—in 2020 alone, 13 students who chose SAE graduate programs identified the initiative as a primary factor in their decision to attend.

Karen Kubey, Kayin Davis, and Cleo Davis

Jerry and Nancy Ward

Area of Impact: School of Architecture & Environment

Jerry Ward, BArch ’70, is passionate about supporting students like himself that come from farming or small, rural communities in Oregon who want to become architects. In 2020, he and his wife, Nancy, pledged $200,000 to create the Jerry and Nancy Ward Scholarship, which supports undergraduate majors in architecture, interior architecture, and landscape architecture. This scholarship is the first of its kind that specifically supports students who graduated from high schools in rural areas of the state of Oregon.

“This scholarship is an especially important investment in University of Oregon students and the cultivation of future talent in the profession. I am delighted that Jerry and Nancy are partnering with us in the success of the Department of Architecture and its students,” said Dean Adrian Parr.

bridge over river