Building a Sustainable Future Historic Gift from Alumnus Bryan DeBoer

Building a Sustainable Future: Historic Gift from Lithia & Driveway

Bryan DeBoer ’89, values the deep-rooted significance of a regional public university like SOU. He understands the out-sized role it can play in a geographic region, recognizes the importance of having a thriving school from which to draw future employees, and leans into “the possible” when organizations come together to solve larger issues. 

As President and CEO of Lithia & Driveway, Bryan has infused the values of community, sustainability, and diversity into Lithia’s corporate culture. He was inspired by the opportunity to invest in these values at SOU—setting the stage and creating momentum for what would become the university’s largest ever philanthropic gift. Bryan’s appreciation for SOU’s vision to transform itself also became a vision for the role that Lithia Motors and GreenCars could play in that transformation.  

“The true impact of partnerships and giving back lies not only in the immediate benefits it provides but also to the ripple effect it creates, inspiring others to join in and make a difference,” said Bryan.  

The middle son of Lithia Chairman Sid DeBoer, Bryan took the helm of the now-Fortune 200 company in 2012, nearly ten years after the company entered the New York Stock Exchange. Under Bryan’s leadership, Lithia continues to expand and grow its market share, launching new ventures that include the Lithia & Driveway platform in 2020 and the GreenCars platform soon thereafter. The company currently operates dealerships in the U.S, Canada, United Kingdom, and has more than 24,000 employees.  

Lithia’s philanthropic commitment spans ten years and will be guided by the Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund, which focuses on fueling projects and programs that bolster sustainability and broaden the university’s diversity efforts. “Lithia’s mission is Growth Powered by People,” said Bryan. “We thought about that same concept at SOU and said, Let’s make sure we get the people behind the sustainability effort, and then let’s tie it into the diversity and fund it three different ways,” he said. 

The company’s commitment is composed of four significant components: $5 million will fund a scholarship and leadership program to attract and support first-generation college students and those who have been historically underserved in higher education. The first cohort of LAD Scholars begins school in fall 2023. 

The second component is the creation of an interdisciplinary Institute for Applied Sustainability, which will devote $4 million to implementing sustainability initiatives at the university while also looking to broader initiatives nationally. A diverse cadre of faculty members and administrators will work hand-in-hand with Lithia executives to develop projects such as a national sustainability conference, a corporate sustainability academic credential, and a national sustainability demonstration site. SOU was already on a path to becoming the nation’s first public university to generate its own daytime electricity, and the Lithia commitment injected fresh energy into the effort. 

“We share the same vision of positioning SOU as one of the pioneering green universities. It’s remarkable to have a university that shares our commitment to sustainability and is dedicated to making the world a better place,” said Bryan.