"Bill Bowerman to this day continues to influence more than just Nike. Generations of former runners went on to become doctors, lawyers, architects, educators, business leaders... Hopefully, this award and the Olympic Trials (in Eugene in 2008) will allow others to hear that voice," Nike Founder and Chairman Philip H. Knight '59 told an audience of more than 350 at the Lundquist College of Business's Visionaries Awards Luncheon.
At the November 2 event in Portland, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer presented Knight with the inaugural Bowerman Innovation Award on behalf of the Lundquist College of Business. The award is named for Nike co-founder and Knight's former University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman '72, and it honors the entrepreneurial spirit that Bowerman embodied. Bowerman is well known for creating the first lightweight outsole running shoe, using latex, leather, glue, and his wife's waffle iron. He also developed the wedged heel, the cushioned midsole, and lightweight nylon uppers.
"Bill Bowerman was someone whose passion in life was bigger than everything he did. You too, Phil, have that passion," Frohnmayer told that audience. "You and Bill have shown us how to strive for excellence... how to reach for the stars."
Knight was clearly moved during his acceptance speech in which he shared inspiring anecdotes about Bowerman.
"Through his stories, he shared very important elements about what it means to lead and teach," said attendee Tom Sidley, managing director of Aequitas Capital Management.
"It was great to get Phil's perspective on how Bowerman was an inspiration to him. I liked his track stories and learning how other people and athletes inspired him," said Rebekah Minsent '06, an undergraduate with a sports marketing concentration.
Knight possessed the enthusiasm and ambition to blossom Bowerman's inventions into the world's largest athletic shoe and apparel company. Under Knight's leadership, Nike transformed sport, pioneered the field of sports marketing, revolutionized corporate business practices, implemented innovative product distribution systems, and more.
Just as Bowerman inspired Knight, Knight's entrepreneurial passion for success inspires and motivates students at the Lundquist College of Business today. For all these reasons, the college recognized Knight for dramatically changing the world of business.