Wine studies program to receive $6 million donation from local winery

Kaelia Neal, Editor-in-chief

Grace and Ken Evenstad pledged to donate $6 million to Linfield, the largest gift in Oregon history in support of wine education. Photo courtesy Linfield College.

Linfield announced on Thursday that two local winemakers have donated $6 million, one of the largest gifts in the college’s history, to support wine education.

The donation by Domaine Serene Winery founders Grace and Ken Evenstad and the college’s request of a standalone wine studies major will distinguish Linfield from colleges across the country. The gift is the largest in Oregon history in support of wine education.

“This gift will enable thousands of future students to follow their passions in the wine business,” Grace Evenstad said in a press release.

“It will prepare them for success and will enable the American wine industry to benefit for generations to come.”

Ken Evenstad said this donation invests in “future thought-leaders of the global wine industry.”

“With this partnership, it is our hope that the newly endowed wine studies program acts as a magnet to attract the brightest minds from around the world to further propel our industry to even greater heights on the world’s largest stage,” he said.

The gift will endow the Grace and Ken Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield, as well as an endowed faculty position, the Evenstad chair in wine studies.

Whether the college’s faculty approves a wine studies major may be decided as early as this month. The college began a wine studies minor two years ago.

In June 2017, internationally known wine climatologist Gregory V. Jones succeeded Ellen Brittan, the founding director of the Center for Wine Education. Now as the director for wine education at Linfield, he will be the first to hold the Evenstad chair in wine studies title, the college announced.

Jones originally thought finding a donor could take one to three years, but after connecting with Domaine Serene’s hospitality manager, Anthony Rostock, “everything just came together.”

“I was amazed that it happened as fast as it did,” he said.

Jones said he is looking forward to getting the curriculum in place and seeing a new cohort of students coming to Linfield for wine studies.

“It’s a way to bring something unique to the college. I think it has the potential to help with enrollment. I think it has the potential to create a greater connection between Linfield and the community. And of course, it has the potential to be the go-to place for all things wine in the region.”

Jones said Linfield is in the heart of the wine industry and it needs to be regionally responsible.

“I just think it’s amazing that we have this opportunity. You don’t get this kind of opportunity in an institution of higher learning very often.”

The donation will also fund the design of the Evenstad Wine laboratory, which is part of the college’s new science building plan.

The Grace and Ken Evenstad Center for Wine Education will include a wine studies degree that incorporates the historical, geographical and environmental aspects of growing grapes and the making, bottling and selling of wine.

“This tremendous gift is not only a boon to Linfield College, it’s a major investment in the future of wine education in our state,” President Thomas Hellie said.

“We are deeply grateful to Grace and Ken for this important gift, and we’re proud of their faith in Linfield’s wine education program.”

The Evenstads arrived in the Willamette Valley in 1989 after spending more than 20 years in Minnesota building a successful business. With this donation, the Evenstads have donated more than $20 million for philanthropic causes nationwide.

The partnership between Domaine Serene and Linfield is already underway with on-site educational programs hosted by the winery.