Robby Running grew up in Hood River and thought for sure he was going to college to become a dentist. All of that changed for him when he took an organic spectroscopy class at SOU, and his world opened up. That’s the magic of what happens in the classroom at SOU. The path to discovery looks different for each student, but the opportunities are everywhere you look. Robby had the innate curiosity—and eager mind that many SOU students have—to venture into the exploratory nature of the sciences. Following that curiosity led him to an exciting path of career advancement.
Nayeli Esqueda Alvarado remembers learning to love video games ever since she could move her thumbs. She recalls spending much of her childhood playing video games with her father, a happy memory that Nayeli carries with her as she reflects on her SOU college experience. Nayeli will be graduating as a double major in Computer Science and Emerging Media and Digital Arts in June with the hopes of entering the video game industry. It’s because of her education at SOU that Nayeli is poised for a promising future.
Southern Oregon University and Medford-based Lithia Motors announced in September of 2022 a philanthropic partnership that will serve as the bedrock of future innovations at SOU. Lithia’s commitment exceeds $12 million and is the largest-ever single gift to the university. The contributions from Lithia Motors (NYSE: LAD) create the Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund, which will be used “to propel the university forward by investing in people and programs to implement the university’s and the company’s shared vision of sustainability and diversity.” The fund will also become a catalyst to invite other companies and individuals to participate in making a significant difference in both social and environmental change.
The writer and teacher bell hooks wrote that “…education as the practice of freedom affirms healthy self-esteem in students as it promotes their capacity to be aware and live consciously,” which relates beautifully to SOU’s mission of preparing students to become engaged citizens in our democracy. The SOU Bridge program does just this by providing resources to underrepresented students so they can learn how to create successful lives of purpose.
Before George “Keith” Bayne passed away last year, he endowed the Alice Bayne Scholarship in Education, ensuring that his late wife would be remembered and that their shared love of learning would continue to encourage and support future educators.
SOU’s Bridge Program makes going to college and earning adegree possible for many students who cannot see higher education in their future. The program, designed to help Oregon students successfully transition to college, is speciﬁcally geared for students who are traditionally under-represented in higher education.
In a single act of giving, Todd Elworthy honored his mother, his grandmother, and his family’s long history of service by creating a ﬁnancial path for motivated ROTC cadets at SOU to complete their degree. “I wanted to make a contribution to education and support students who may not have the means,” said Elworthy.
It was arguably no surprise to those who knew SOU wrestling coach Bob Riehm that he bequeathed a signiﬁcant portion of his estate to the university’s men’s wrestling program. Riehm had a reputation for generosity. When a wrestler didn’t have money to go to his father’s funeral, Riehm gave the young man a credit card and the keys to his own car to allow him to attend the funeral. That was the kind of coach and person Riehm was to hundreds of student-athletes.
Semi-retired surgeon Ron Worland, M.D., believes that supporting SOU is an investment in the entire southern Oregon region. “This is our university and our community. It is important to support the students because that will beneﬁt every one of us,” said Worland. Ron and his wife Lou created an endowment for student-faculty research and enabled the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment.