"College changed my life," says Sid DeBoer, chairman and CEO of Lithia Motors. Although he is a Stanford alumnus, Sid has chosen instead to focus his support on Southern Oregon University. "If people like me don't look out for our local college, who will?"
Sid began working in the automobile dealership industry as a young man and has held virtually every job in the field. He's received numerous professional awards, including the Chrysler Corporation 5-Star Dealer Award many times, Time Magazine Dealer of the Year, and American Auto Dealers Association National Dealer of the Year. Lithia Motors is a New York Stock Exchange listed, publicly traded company that ranks as one of the largest auto dealerships in the United States.
"Higher education is critical for our society," says Sid. "I believe in a liberal arts education. You need to be able to deal with a complex world. If people aren't educated, they can make many bad decisions."
A lifelong resident of Ashland, Sid explains, "My commitment is to the Institution. I think I can make some differences both financially and by asking others to help. There are resources in this community we can tap. SOU needs support for scholarships, athletics, and new buildings."
DeBoer says Oregon's public universities, unlike Oregon community colleges and K–12, do not have a local tax base for their support. In recent state budgets, K–12 has received over 50 percent of the general fund allocations. As state allocations decrease for higher education, public universities are increasingly on their own—left to raise operating funds through higher tuition, grants, and philanthropy.
"The majority of the cost of fundraising is not borne by the University," says DeBoer. "That's why I support the Foundation and its projects. We do annual gifts, and my will is going to be for scholarships."
DeBoer's role as co-chair of the Center for the Visual Arts and Hannon Library campaigns contributed to the success of both projects. DeBoer and his wife, Karen, are involved in many community projects, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Community Foundation, Ashland YMCA, and the Sid & Karen DeBoer Foundation. They are true citizens of this region.