DeBoer donations a boon for SOU

Even though Sid DeBoer didn't receive his college degree at Southern Oregon University, the chairman of Lithia Motors believes it's his duty to donate to the only major university in the region.

DeBoer and wife Karen's foundation, along with Lithia Motors and personal gifts from the family, have touched countless buildings, projects and programs at the school.

To date, well over $1 million has been donated by the DeBoers, including to help fund the university's art buildings, Raider athletics programs and the new Honors College, according to Sylvia Kelley, executive director of the SOU Foundation.

"It's our local university," said Sid DeBoer. "Someone needs to look out for it."

Though he never attended, DeBoer said he's paid the tuition for numerous family members, and still has a granddaughter attending the school.

Donors for more than three decades, the DeBoers have taken a strong interest in the Raiders athletic program, providing donations to help construct Raider Stadium in the 1980s.

Sid DeBoer also helped start the annual Lithia Raider Club Golf Shootout, and pushed the fundraiser from making about $20,000 a year to an event that netted more than $250,000 this year, the 23rd time it was held.

The money raised is used for the athletic program and largely for scholarships for Raider athletes.

Never an SOU athlete, DeBoer was even inducted into the school's athlete Hall of Fame as a "Friend of Raider Athletics" last summer.

"We're extremely grateful to the DeBoer family," said Kelley, who also serves as the vice president of development for SOU. "They have given generously since 1982."

The Sid and Karen DeBoer Foundation pledged $50,000 to match another $50,000 from donors to help fund the construction of the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford, reaching out to Medford Rotary members for donations back in 2007. Sid's brother Alan DeBoer also donated land to use for parking nearby the building in downtown Medford.

Donations by the family to the Hannon Library's completion earned the naming of the DeBoer conference room in the building.

"We certainly believe in higher education, and they don't have a lot of major donors," said Sid DeBoer, adding that the university is also named in his estate plan.

More recently, the DeBoers donated money to help fund the opening of the Honors College at SOU, which admitted its first class this fall.

"Without the generous support of the DeBoers, the inauguration of the Honors College would have been extraordinarily difficult if not impossible," said Ken Mulliken, the director of the Honors College.

Mulliken said the Honors College has brought a new crop of highly motivated, talented students to the school.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance reporter living in Ashland. Email her at

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