‘Unite for the Knight’ helps raise $508 million

By Michael Gutwig, Editor & Manager

Last September, seven labor and business groups held a press conference at Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Southwest Portland to announce formation of the “Unite for the Knight” coalition. Together, the leaders from organized labor and management pledged to reach out to their memberships, contractors, and vendors to give a boost to the Knight Cancer Challenge.

A year earlier, Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny had challenged OHSU to raise half a billion dollars for cancer research. They promised to match it with $500 million of their own if OHSU reached the goal by February 2016.

On June 25, the Knight Challenge surpassed its goal, and then some—raising $508 million.

“This is the single largest, successful, mass campaign in the history of U.S. philanthropy, and done in record time,” said Keith Todd, president of the OHSU Foundation. More than 10,000 donors responded, and 50 gifts were for one million dollars or more.  $200 million is in state bond funding approved by the Oregon Legislature in Senate Bill 5703.

The labor-management Unite for the Knight coalition contributed nearly $1 million.

The coalition was comprised of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, Oregon AFSCME Council 75, Oregon State Fire Fighters Council, Associated Oregon Industries, the Portland Business Alliance, and Oregon Business Council.

John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, was co-chair of the coalition. The other co-chair was Brian Gard, president of Gard Communications.

Ken Allen, executive director of Oregon AFSCME, serves on the OHSU Board of Directors and was instrumental in putting the coalition together.

“In the fight against cancer, we’re all on the same side,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson.

The billion dollars will allow the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to create the first large-scale program dedicated to early detection of lethal cancers. OHSU will build a new, state-of-the-art cancer research facility, and a clinical trial center. Ground breaking is tentatively scheduled for March 2016, with construction expected to be complete in 2018.

OHSU already is fast tracking recruitment of 250 to 300 scientists and physicians to work there.

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