A MILLION THANKS: It looks as though Phil Knight and his wife Penny may be making good on their $500 million pledge to Oregon Health & Science University’s cancer research sooner than expected, thanks in part to a $100 million donation by Columbia Sportswear’s chairman Gert Boyle. Last fall, the Knight Cancer Challenge was launched with a vow to donate $500 million to OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute by February 2016. As of Monday the drive was $61 million short of its goal.

The 90-year-old Boyle furthered their cause considerably this summer by anonymously giving a $100 million check. But the Portland, Ore.-based Willamette Week later revealed she was the donor. “They couldn’t spell ‘anonymous’ so they found out my name,” Boyle said. “They are snoopers and they’re good at it.”

This story first appeared in the October 14, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In June, Boyle’s son Tim, who runs Columbia Sportswear, and his wife Mary donated $10 million to the cause.

As a sign of thanks for Gert Boyle’s generosity, KCI director Brian Druker, M.D. asked to name a building in her honor, but she said she declined. “If I’m going to have my name on any cement, I’ll probably be under it,” Boyle said, adding that she made a different request. Instead, one of OHSU’s buildings will be named after her sister Hildegard Lamfrom, a notable molecular biologist, who died in 1984. Lamfrom worked with some of the biggest names in science including Linus Pauling, Richard Feynman, James Watson, Francis Crick and six of their fellow Nobel laureates.

Known for her “One Tough Mother” for Columbia, Boyle said she hopes her efforts will motivate others. “I sort of think that some of these guys should step up to the plate. If a little old lady can, they can too,” she said. “The only advantage to being 90 years old is you can say what you want to. People just think, ‘Oh, she’s old — she doesn’t know any better.’”

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