Deeply Rooted: The Donors Behind A Campus Renovation Gift

The University of Oregon Pacific Hall. Credit: Another Believer via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)The University of Oregon recently received a $7 million gift toward renovations of Pacific Hall, the university's original science building. The money will fund new labs and enable recruitment of new faculty, as well as "create research opportunities for future generations of students, and boost the UO’s research mission."

Pacific Hall originally opened its doors in 1952, and has since been repurposed for other fields. With the number of OU science majors on the rise, these funds come at an important time.

The $7 million gift comes from Cheryl Ramberg Ford and her husband Allyn Ford. Cheryl is a University of Oregon alumna, who recently completed her term on the board of the UO Foundation. Allyn, meanwhile, is on the board of trustees of the university. Allyn's sister also attended University of Oregon. Cheryl recalls the time she spent doing research as an undergraduate: "When I set foot in the psychology lab, it was like the world opened up for me... learning from a tenured faculty member raised my curiosity and opened new possibilities. We want to give those same opportunities to as many students today as possible.”

While alumni loyalty and the lasting impressions that Cheryl had at her school play a role in this story, there are other factors worth digging into. The Ford family has deep ties to the state of Oregon, with a long record of business and civic involvements in the region. These are the kinds of motivations that can play a big role in campus giving.

For starters, the family's Ford Family Foundation, not to be confused with the Ford Foundation, was established all the way back in 1957 by Allyn's parents, Kenneth and Hallie Ford. Kenneth founded Roseburg Forest Products in the 1930s, and grew the company into one of the largest, family-owned wood products manufacturers in the nation. Hallie Ford, meanwhile, was a teacher, painter, and patron of the arts.

The foundation initially focused on supporting the surrounding timber communities of southwest Oregon, but has since grown into a robust foundation with a number of initiatives and priorities. Allyn, who took the reins from his father at Roseburg, and Cheryl play an active role in the Ford Family Foundation. In a recent year, the foundation posted assets of some $882 million and gave away around $26 million. Via the foundation's Successful Citizens grantmaking area, the foundation focuses on children youth and families, as well as post secondary success. Additionally, the charity runs several scholarship programs that focus on students in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California.

At University of Oregon, the Ford Family Foundation has funded more than 750 scholarships. Other work at the school by the family includes the Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn Ford Alumni Center, and the Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn C. Ford Deanship of the College of Forestry. A gift by Allyn's late mother established the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families. It's safe to say that the Fords are a family that's deeply rooted in the region, and their latest gift to support Pacific Hall at University of Oregon proves that.

As Allyn puts it, "Buildings are more than a collection of rooms under a roof. They are a home of inquiry, discovery and innovation. We are proud to help provide this cornerstone for science and education in the new Pacific Hall. We encourage others to step up and help realize its full potential.”