History | OHSU Foundation

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Our History

Raising funds to support OHSU’s missions since 1926.

Kids in hospital gowns eat ice cream while nurse shows a movie on a projector, circa 1940

Year in and year out, tens of thousands of donors collectively contribute tens of millions of dollars in charitable contributions to advance OHSU’s vital missions of healing, teaching, discovery and outreach. Since OHSU’s inception as the University of Oregon Medical Department in 1887, donor support has elevated the university’s efforts to promote health and well-being across Oregon and Southwest Washington, train tomorrow’s health care professionals and advance the search for life-saving treatments.

OHSU as we know it today was literally built on philanthropy. More specifically, OHSU’s present-day Marquam Hill campus began to take shape in 1917 on two tracts of land donated by the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company and the family of newspaper publisher C.S. Jackson. With the completion of the first campus building – Mackenzie Hall – in 1919, the fast-growing medical school relocated from downtown Portland to what Portlanders would come to call Pill Hill. And so began a process of philanthropy-fueled expansion and transformation that continues to this day.

A pivotal early example was the construction of the Pacific Northwest’s first pediatric medical center, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, in 1926. The heirs of the late furniture manufacturer Frank S. Doernbecher provided the bulk of the funds required to construct Doernbecher’s original home and played a central role in establishing the original Doernbecher Guild to raise support for its ongoing operations. Over the course of the following century, donations from philanthropic leaders and the community at large have enabled OHSU and Doernbecher to evolve and expand to meet Oregonians’ ever-changing needs.

The nonprofit organization that would become the OHSU Foundation was established in 1971 to formalize fundraising efforts for OHSU as it embarked on a gradual transition from a university-based medical school to an independent health sciences institution to a nonprofit public corporation. The institution now encompasses multiple professional schools, OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher hospitals and outpatient clinics, more than 200 statewide outreach programs and a world-class biomedical research enterprise.

The OHSU Foundation today is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to raise private philanthropic support for OHSU and Doernbecher, and to invest and manage gifts responsibly to honor donors’ wishes. The foundation has grown with OHSU, helping the institution reach new heights in education, research, outreach and patient care. As a trusted liaison between OHSU’s leaders and faculty and the philanthropic community, the foundation has facilitated a number of transformational gifts and bequests that stand among the largest philanthropic donations in Oregon history.

Learn more about OHSU and the OHSU Foundation

Read about Frank Doernbecher and the gift that started it all.

Read the fast facts about OHSU.