The University of Oregon is hopeful that a contribution made by Board of Trustees Chair Chuck Lillis will boost the global profile of the volcanology research performed at the school.
The $8 million gift made by Lillis and his wife Gwen will be put toward the endowment of faculty positions for two expert researchers to be placed in the school's Department of Earth Sciences. It is the hope of the school that, combined with the prominent volcanologists already staffed at the school as well as the addition of volcanologist Thomas Giachetti, the new hires will boost the research abilities of the school as well as its prominence in the field.
According to University of Oregon President Michael Schill, the gift will help to put together a cluster of excellence at the school in its efforts to include more tenured staff members.
"I am so delighted that the Lillises have made another amazing investment in our university," Schill said. "Chuck and Gwen have served in virtually every university leadership role one can play, and their support has been inspirational. This gift is a vote of confidence in our top objective of building our academic and research profile. It will enable an excellent department to become a pre-eminent one."
Andrew Marcus, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there are currently five or six faculty members in the earth sciences department at the school who focus on volcanology. The gift from the Lillis family will go toward the addition of two endowed positions, as well as the renovation of science facilities at the school, an increase to the number of science labs, and a boost for post-doctorate support programs.
The Lillises have said they will donate an additional $2 million if other donors match that number over the next five years. "We want to really highlight to the nation and to the world that we are taking this seriously," Marcus said of volcanology research.
The Center for Volcanology at the school was founded in 1965, and is currently located in a building on 13th avenue in the campus core.
The gift is of particular importance to Lillis, Marcus said, in part because of the foot of ash that was left on his car during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens while Lillis was a business professor at Washington State University, writes Andrew Theen for OregonLive.com.
The gift is the second to be received by the school in just two months from a trustee, and comes as a sign of the push made by Schill for an increase in scientific research, which he said would be a top priority for his first year on the job. Allyn Ford gifted $7 million to the school in June in order to increase the number of science labs, and trustee named Connie Ballmer, along with her husband Steve, gifted $50 million to the school in 2014.