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Leave it to a marketing professor to create innovative methods for motivating students. A recent $1 million gift from Robin and Roger Best aims to improve job prospects for PhD students at the UO's Lundquist College of Business by boosting research productivity and teaching excellence. The strategy is simple: create an endowed fund that rewards doctoral students for research, publishing, and great teaching.

“We're grateful for everything Roger has accomplished—as a pioneer in marketing, as cofounder of our Sports Management Program, and for his more than two decades as a faculty member," said James Terborg, interim dean of the Lundquist College. “This gift from Robin and Roger will transform our research and launch countless careers for generations to come."

The endowed Robin and Roger Best Fund for Doctoral Research and Teaching will distribute approximately $35,000 to students each year. PhD students can apply for up to $500 per year for costs associated with their research, such as travel, software, data, and conferences. But the rewards don't stop there.  Present a paper at a conference? Receive $500 or $1,000 (selected major conferences qualify for the higher award). Submit an article for the first time to a peer-reviewed journal? That's $1,000. If it's accepted, that's another $1,000 or $1,500. The incentives also apply to articles coauthored with faculty members, who share the awards with their students. 

The endowment will also fund two annual $2,500 awards for doctoral students who demonstrate excellence in teaching. To celebrate all these teaching and research accomplishments, the Bests" gift will also support an annual event in which award recipients will be honored by faculty members and fellow graduate students.

“A fund like this for PhD students is rare—if not unique—internationally," said Andrew Verner, director of the Lundquist College's PhD program. “It will give our graduates a leg up on the competition and enhance the college's reputation. That helps us attract top PhD students, improving everything we do."

“Graduate students are powerful catalysts for a university," Verner added. "They enhance the undergraduate experience and they make it possible for faculty members to achieve their teaching and research goals."

Being an expert marketer, Best started with trial research. For the past three years, Robin and Roger have been supporting the student awards. The results have been tangible and measurable—important factors for a consultant who built his career focusing on marketing metrics and their relationship to performance.

“The idea was to see if it worked," said Best. “It's worked well enough that Robin and I decided to endow it permanently."

Best, who earned his marketing PhD at the UO, hopes the fund will give students the same opportunities he had to succeed in a publish-or-perish world. He credits his success to publishing and collaborating with professors while he was a doctoral student.

“I came to the UO to learn all I could and then go back into the world of consulting," said Best. “I never thought of myself as a professor. Then I became a research assistant for Del Hawkins and Gerald Albaum. They didn't have to, but they credited me as a coauthor in their published papers. The rest is history."

Best studied electrical engineering as an undergraduate and earned his MBA while working as an engineer and product manager for General Electric. After completing his UO PhD in 1975, he taught at the University of Arizona, then returned to join the UO faculty in 1980. Throughout his tenure, Best continued his research, executive education, and consulting work. In 1990, he launched Roger J. Best, Inc. The company offers marketing analytics software, executive education, and consulting.

“The creative element makes marketing exciting to me," said Best. “There's no textbook solution. Marketing is more like ‘Here's the paint, and there's the canvas. Do you want a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt?" Either one could be good and successful."

This fall, PhD students can apply for awards from the Robin and Roger Best Fund for Doctoral Research and Teaching. While their gift will support the program in perpetuity, the Bests hope that more donors will see the value and add to the fund.

To contribute to the Robin and Roger Best Fund for Doctoral Research and Teaching, contact External Relations at the Lundquist College of Business or 541-346-1346.

Story by Ed Dorsch, originally appeared on