Donald P. Shiley '51, '06 Hon | University of Portland

Donald P. Shiley '51, '06 Hon

Founder and Inventor (Retired) The Shiley Company

Donald Shiley

Donald Shiley grew up on a five-acre farm in central western Washington and could always be found fixing things. He started his higher education at Oregon State University on a scholarship but could only afford one year, so he joined the Navy. He was “itching to finish college” when he got out of the military at 27, so he enrolled at the University of Portland, largely because of its brand-new engineering building. In 1951, he became one of the first engineering graduates and by 1971, Shiley had teamed with a young heart surgeon in Sweden, Viking Bjork, to create a tilting disk valve. Over the years, the Shiley Company sent these valves to thousands of hearts, saving lives worldwide. “It’s not often you’ll find someone with the skills of an engineer who can also build a successful business,” said Rev. Thomas Doyle, the University’s Executive Vice President. Shiley eventually sold his company to Pfizer, in his late fifties, and wanted to return to tinkering and dreaming.

Over the years, the Shileys have been generous philanthropists and more than 50 years after he graduated from the University of Portland, the Shileys made the lead gift to renovate and expand the old engineering building. “Donald P. Shiley Hall transforms the School of Engineering,” Doyle said. “We’ve had great faculty, great students. Now we have a great facility.” Donald Shiley said it best, summarizing his amazing accomplishments. “Find the gift that God gave you, sharpen it, hone it and train it, and then go use it.”