Phil Knight has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oregon ©Getty Images

The University of Oregon (UO) has awarded Nike co-founder Phil Knight an honorary doctorate of philosophy more than 60 years after he earned a bachelor's degree at the university.

Knight left UO in 1959 with a degree in journalism and later mastered in business administration at Stanford, before forming sportswear company Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964.

He did so with his old coach from UO, Bill Bowerman.

It would change its name to Nike in 1971.

Knight, now 82, received the doctorate in a virtual ceremony on Saturday (June 20).

"To summarize the impact Mr. Knight has had on our society is a nearly impossible task,” UO President Michael H. Schill wrote in his recommendation to the Board of Trustees. 

"Mr. Knight is a terrific example of spirit, creativity, hard work and generosity of time, talent, and treasure who changed the way business and marketing have been conducted forever."

Knight has made multiple donations to the university, as well as to Stanford and the Oregon Health and Science University

Phil Knight helped found Nike ©Getty Images
Phil Knight helped found Nike ©Getty Images

He and his wife Penny gifted $500 million (£404 million/€446 million) to UO for the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

UO has long been regarded as one of the best athletics teams in the American collegiate system, with the Ducks winning seven men's track and field titles.

It is based in Eugene, the city known best for Nike's origins.

Eugene - specifically UO's Hayward Field - will host the 2022 World Athletics Championships and like Boulder in Colorado and Iten in Kenya is one of the most renowned locations in the athletics world for training.

Only 28 people have received the UO honorary doctorate, with past recipients including philanthropist Lorry I. Lokey, the first female President of the Philippines - Corazon Aquino - and former Oregon Governor and senator Mark Hatfield.