June 27, 2015—Since its creation in 1996, the University of Oregon’s Philip H. Knight Professorship, which was endowed by the Nike founder himself, has fostered the advancement of scholarship and creativity in many university departments.
Four music professors have benefited from Knight’s generosity. Music technology professor Jeffrey Stolet and percussion professor Charles Dowd held the Knight Professorship from 2000 to 2010, while the recipients for 2010–15 are composition professor Robert Kyr and jazz studies professor Steve Owen.
School of Music and Dance candidates for the Knight Professorship must demonstrate an outstanding record of national and international achievement, teaching effectiveness, and scholarly or creative activity.
But what is an “endowed professorship,” anyway? What do faculty members actually do with professorship money?
“I have used quite a healthy amount of the funds to purchase recording gear so that students can record their own projects—microphones, preamps, sound baffles, and the like,” Owen explains.
It may sound like a prosaic use of the funds, but Owen says the importance of high-quality recordings cannot be overstated.
“Our goal is to prepare our students to adapt, innovate, and thrive in an ever-changing world,” says Owen. “Strong recordings are one key to competing with other institutions.”
Not only is the SOMD creating audio portfolios for students at the rate of about 50 per year—portfolios the students can use to land jobs, gigs, and graduate school admission—these recordings have also advanced individual students for prestigious competitions.
Based partially on the strength of their recordings, for example, SOMD jazz studies students Tony Glausi, Jessika Smith, and Devin Wright all won prestigious national competitions in recent years.
Owen has also used the professorship dollars—which include an annual salary stipend and funds for research projects and program development—to offer a student scholarship, and to record his 2013 album Stand Up Eight.
Even a faculty project like the album has a direct impact on the lives of students, Owen explains, this time in the realm of admission recruiting. Stand Up Eight has served numerous times as a sort of “calling card” for prospective jazz students.
“We probably have had more student inquiries because of that little doggone CD than you could imagine,” Owen says.