The message behind the generosity: Darlene Shiley and her commitment to UP

By Michael Lang | November 10, 2022 10:00am
Darlene Shiley speaks with The Beacon about the new Maker's Space.
Media Credit: Emma Sells / The Beacon

Legendary benefactor and UP Regent Darlene Shiley, whose late husband was esteemed alum and inventor Donald P. Shiley, visited campus during the week of Oct. 24.

During her time in Portland, Darlene Shiley was celebrated at the groundbreaking ceremony of the upcoming Shiley-Marcos Center for Design and Innovation, the building project she spearheaded with a $10 million donation.

The day before the ceremony, The Beacon had the opportunity to talk with Darlene Shiley about visions she has for the new Shiley-Marcos Center and her take on the importance of educating UP students for the future.

Darlene Shiley and Robert Kelly at the groundbreaking ceremony of the upcoming Shiley-Marcos Center for Design and Innovation.

by Chiara Profenna / The Beacon

Her outlook on the Shiley-Marcos Center

“My main concern was the maker space for the engineers, but over the years it’s kind of evolved into an understanding that the engineers can’t just be engineers. They have to be able to speak and present a case. They have to be able to draw out what they’re thinking about doing.”

“From that standpoint, [the Shiley-Marcos Center] is much broader than originally conceived, and I’m good with that.”

“Everything that is good and that grows requires interaction. A lot of people give lip service to working together — I actually believe in the concept.”

The importance of education

“Both Donald and I came from poor families and knew that education was the only way to get out of that situation, as I think a lot of kids and people are realizing nowadays, too.”

“Education is everything. [UP students] are doing it in the right place because [they’re] doing it someplace where we call values-added and values-based. There are values to be followed here. There are rules.”

On her late husband’s quote: “Find the gift God gave you. Sharpen, hone, and train it. And then go use it. Go!"

“That’s what we want the [Shiley-Marcos Center] to do. I want to create more Donald Shileys. It’s the legacy aspect — that statement then is the same today.”

“You have to decide: What am I going to do with my life? It doesn’t mean it can’t change. You just need to know what you’re doing when you do it.”

“And when you’ve figured it out, then you can go do it. Until you have a sense of yourself, you can’t do anything for anybody else.”

What Donald P. Shiley might have said at the groundbreaking of the Shiley-Marcos Center

“He would probably look out at the students, be very pleased to see men and women out in the student audience, and he would probably say, “Shiley proud”.”

“Our work together is now my life’s work. I think he’d be very pleased that I carried this on beyond our original idea.”

On giving millions of dollars to UP over the years

“I want people to know the folks that are giving money to the universities. I want you to know that my motives are in fact pure.”

“It’s about the students. It was a long time since I’ve been a student, but I am a student of life. I still learn. I feel like I have a whole lot more to do. The people that contribute to a university by and large are good and decent people who just want to make things better.”

Her advice to UP students

“I think for the students of today, listen to all sides. Don’t be afraid to hear information from another side. Don’t cancel somebody out because they said something you don’t like. Try to understand what they’re saying — you don’t have to agree.”

Michael Lang is a member of the editorial board at The Beacon. He can be reached at