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Phil and Penny Knight’s multimillion-dollar gift establishes the new Knight Family Scholars Program

Portland, OR (October 28, 2010) – Phil and Penny Knight have honored Catlin Gabel with the largest gift in the school’s history by far: a multimillion-dollar donation for the new endowed Knight Family Scholars Program. The Knight Family Scholars pilot program will allow the Catlin Gabel faculty to explore a new model for high school education.
“Catlin Gabel is a leading innovator in American education, producing outstanding graduates, all of whom are admitted to college and who bring great creativity and leadership to our community,” said Phil and Penny Knight. “We see a need for more great leaders, and want to challenge Catlin Gabel to help educate and inspire—through creative new educational experiences—successful scholars who can empathize with the problems and issues of the world around them, and serve as catalysts to others.”
Said Lark Palma, head of Catlin Gabel: “The Knight Family Scholars Program challenges Catlin Gabel to deliver high school education differently—allowing us to take risks about how and where we teach and learn. We are wonderfully excited about this opportunity and promise to share what we learn so that all high schools may benefit.”
Continued Palma: “Phil and Penny Knight are among the greatest supporters of public and private education in Oregon. We are extremely grateful to them for their unprecedented generosity, which is a tremendous vote of confidence in our school.”


The Knight Scholars will stand out in four key areas: academics, community service, athletics, and leadership. The program is designed for well-rounded students who will inspire their peers and go on to serve the world. These Knight Scholars will be fully integrated members of the student body who benefit from Catlin Gabel’s curriculum during their four years of high school.
In response to ideas and directions in real-world, project-based, interdisciplinary high school education that have been evolving at Catlin Gabel, the program will include a series of seminars to be developed collaboratively by the Knight Family Scholars Program director and the Catlin Gabel faculty. The seminars—both on and off campus, and open to Catlin Gabel high school students—will examine topics that emerge from the shared interests of the students and the director as they move through the program together. The seminars, taught by a network of community experts, including some of the school’s talented and notable parents, alumni, and grandparents, will also respond to the availability of influential mentors, speakers, and guest instructors.
The program is expected to launch in the 2012-13 school year with four Knight Scholars. The Knight gift includes funds to recruit and annually compensate the Knight Family Scholars Program director, the school’s first faculty endowed chair. A national search is planned.


A great and timely idea emerged from Catlin Gabel’s Imagine 2020 conference in 2006: furthering the school’s experiential and progressive educational goals by taking advantage of what Portland and the Pacific Northwest have to offer. The school has since been seeking ways to bring students together with creative, medical, political, entrepreneurial, and science leaders. The impetus for the Knight Family Scholars Program comes directly from this ideal, now embodied in Catlin Gabel’s PLACE urban studies program and associated high school classes.


Phil and Penny Knight are native Oregonians, who married in 1968 after meeting at Portland State University. Mr. Knight is co-founder and chairman of the Board of Directors of NIKE, Inc. Mr. Knight is a graduate of Portland, Oregon’s Cleveland High School, the University of Oregon, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Mrs. Knight is a graduate of Portland, Oregon’s Lincoln High School and Portland State University. The Knights are longtime supporters of education, including the University of Oregon, Stanford University School of Business, Willamette University College of Law, the Oregon State University animal science program, the Oregon Health & Science University, and many other institutions.


Catlin Gabel is an independent, non-sectarian, progressive coeducational day school serving 730 students from preschool through twelfth grade. Its roots go back to the Portland Academy, founded in 1859. The school serves Portland and the world as an educational catalyst, drawing together dedicated educators, motivated students, superb curricular resources, and thoughtfully applied technology, in a beautiful and functional setting, all for the purpose of forming bold learners who become responsible action-takers for life. Catlin Gabel has an overall student to teacher ratio of 7:1, with 28 percent of the student body receiving financial assistance, and 27 percent of students identifying as people of color. Catlin Gabel is sited on 54 acres on Barnes Road, five miles west of downtown Portland. For more information visit
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