Edward J. Ray, President
Oregon State University

State of the University Address
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center
Bend, Oregon

My state of the university remarks tonight highlight the incredible advances occurring at Oregon State – achievements that are providing world-class teaching, research and service to advance environmental progress, health and wellness, and economic prosperity for all Oregonians – as well as our nation and the world.

I also will describe our progress in making OSU-Cascades a four-year university. Thanks to your support and engagement, I am proud to say that after 30 years of planning and hoping, Central Oregon will have its own four-year university beginning this fall as OSU-Cascades welcomes its first entering freshmen class of 100 students.

I pledge to you that we are never going back regardless of the challenges ahead. Oregon State University is Oregon’s statewide university.

OSU was created in 1868 to serve the needs of Oregon by bringing higher education and economic opportunity to the great people of this state.

147 years later … we are intently focused on improving how we fulfill our mission as Oregon’s land grant university.

Thanks to the efforts and support of…

-- Oregon State faculty, staff, students and administrators;
-- Alumni, university friends and donors;
-- Industry and community partners;
-- Governor Kate Brown and Oregon legislators;
-- And higher education supporters and colleagues…

OSU stands as an internationally recognized public research university that is providing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

As I approach the end of my 12th year as president of Oregon State University, I recall that 2014 was a bittersweet year for me personally.

In January of last year, my family and I were able to join with many friends and colleagues and celebrate the dedication of the Beth Ray Center for Academic Support – a center that has one mission: the success of all Oregon State students. And, before Beth passed away she knew that she was loved and admired by many people. What a blessing.  Those of you who reached out to her have my everlasting thanks.

2014 was also a year of landmark achievement.

Oregon State’s enrollment exceeded 30,000 students for the first time ever last fall, making OSU Oregon’s largest university. At-OSU-Cascades, our enrollment topped 1,170 students, including 192 students taking classes at Central Oregon Community College.

And last year, we completed the historic Campaign for OSU – the most ambitious, most successful and, in fact, the only university-wide capital campaign in OSU history.

The public phase of the Campaign was launched in 2007 with a goal of $625 million. We breezed past that initial goal and then revised our fund-raising aspirations to $850 million … and then $1 billion.

The Campaign for OSU concluded on Dec. 31 … having raised $1.14 billion.  As an economist, who likes numbers, I can tell you that the .14 figure makes me chuckle since it represents $140 million.

Thanks to the contributions of more than 106,000 donors, The Campaign for OSU has helped to:

  • Build or renovate 28 buildings;
  • Create more than 600 new scholarships and fellowships endowments that support 3,200 students – many of whom, without such support, would simply not be attending Oregon State … or any other university for that matter;
  • Endow 79 new faculty positions, including the Tykeson Endowed Scholar in Energy Systems Engineering at OSU-Cascades.
  • And – along with your support – positioned us to invest in a new Bend campus for OSU-Cascades.

I can assure you that this campaign was never just about reaching a certain number. It was about investing in top students and outstanding faculty who come to Oregon State University and succeed.

It was about greatly extending the impact of our research enterprise.

And it was about expanding our outreach activities to improve the lives of others. 

To ALL of our many donors: “Thank you. You are difference-makers.”

Tonight, I will focus my remarks on four things:

  • Excellence.
  • Innovation.
  • Leadership.
  • And our shared role to advance higher education in Central Oregon.

Excellence, innovation and leadership are qualities that define Oregon State University’s mission in Central Oregon … throughout our state and nation … and the world.

And these qualities are fundamental to OSU’s commitment to shape the success of our state and society’s ability to address the most significant problems facing our future.
Issues such as:

  • The sustainable health of our forests and rangelands
  • Climate change
  • Safe and sufficient supplies of water and food
  • Clean energy
  • Health and wellness
  • And the heartbreaking fact that today … our children and grandchildren have less of a chance of realizing a better life for themselves and their loved ones than we have enjoyed.

Let me begin with excellence.

As you visit Oregon State University in the future, you will witness a remarkable transformation that has occurred over the past decade.

You will see a dedication to the success of all of our students.

And you will witness our commitment to excellence in everything we do. Being good is no longer good enough.

We are not unclear about what we mean when we talk about excellence. Excellence is not an abstract principle. The more exceptional we are in all that we do, the greater positive impact we can have on those we serve.

You can see Oregon State’s excellence in the quality of students who attend the university and in their many diverse achievements.

We are pleased to have a number of our students join us tonight.

And also, please join me in recognizing a number of Central Oregon’s top high school students who have enrolled at OSU-Cascades and are with us tonight.

Thank you for joining us. I look forward to you and your families becoming part of Beaver Nation.

At Oregon State University, you see excellence in our research, where private industry, the state and federal agencies increasingly invest in problem-solving by calling on OSU. This past year Oregon State garnered $285 million in total grants and contracts for research. Of that total, a record $37 million came from industry – a 50 percent increase from just 2010.

This past summer, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities honored OSU Open Campus as one of the top four community service programs in the nation for bringing customized education and problem-solving to rural communities, such as Madras and Prineville. And in January, U.S. News and World Report ranked Oregon State’s online distance education E-Campus program as the fifth best undergraduate program in the nation.

Why does such excellence and service matter? It’s about our students’ success and their impact on the future.

Consider the story of Shannon Gasper. Shannon grew up in poverty, spending his childhood years living in Seattle and on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak, Washington.

From a young age, Shannon knew he wanted to earn a degree in business. He started a lawn mowing company at age eleven. After high school, he moved to Bend, worked in construction and started a T-shirt printing company. But he wanted to know more. So with a baby on the way, he decided to return to school and earn that business degree he dreamed of as a child.

He started at Central Oregon Community College and did not stop until he earned a bachelor’s degree from OSU-Cascades. Shannon completed his degree in business administration in March and will be participating in OSU-Cascades’ commencement ceremony on June 14.

Shannon was the first person in his family to attend college, and he is the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Along the way, he’s become a role model for his sisters, both of whom are now enrolled in college.

A resident of Bend, Shannon is especially interested in marketing and is now ready to put his degree to work. Shannon is here with us tonight. Please join me in recognizing Shannon Gasper.

Oregon State University is also defined by its leadership.

Let me offer a few examples:

  • Professor Rebecca Vega-Thurber in the department of microbiology is doing research on bacteria and microorganisms in marine ecosystems. Her studies of how pollution and disease have led to the decline of the world’s tropical reefs have earned her the nickname, the Coral Doctor. 
  • Scott Ashford, dean of Oregon State’s College of Engineering, is a collaborator with the National Science Foundation and has led efforts to implement the Oregon Resilience Plan, which will help protect lives and property from a massive earthquake in Oregon’s future. His work in resiliency is known worldwide from Chile to Japan. Scott’s big brother Harold lives here in Bend and is very proud of Scott.
  • And Chris Hagen, an assistant professor at OSU-Cascades. His cutting-edge research in capturing savings and protecting the environment by powering passenger vehicles and trucks with natural gas has drawn more than $3 million in support from federal and state agencies. This work could prove to be transformational.

I see examples of Oregon State’s leadership in this room tonight—and throughout Central Oregon.

We don’t do this work alone … but with partners in private industry, such as Bend Research, the Unmanned Aerial Systems Enterprise and The Center and Therapeutic Associates, who partnered with OSU-Cascades to form the FORCE Lab; organizations, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, EDCO and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs,and education colleagues, such as Central Oregon Community College and area K-12 school districts, where our students and faculty contribute to learning, research and healthier communities.

Oregon State’s impact reaches throughout the state. This past fall, we asked the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest to update its 2011 evaluation of OSU’s statewide and global economic contributions.

Here’s what we learned: The university’s economic impact reaches throughout every county in Oregon, around the nation and the world and now totals $2.371 billion per year – an increase of more than 15 percent from three years ago.

Statewide, Oregon State’s activities were responsible for creating 31,660 jobs in 2014.

The economic contribution of Oregon State University in Bend is profound. Last year, the university added $33.3 million to the Bend economy – a 21 percent increase from 2011. And the university was responsible for 493 local jobs – a 44 percent increase over three years. In Crook and Jefferson counties, the university added another $2.5 million in impact and 41 jobs.

You will find that OSU is also at the foundation of the Oregon Business Plan’s commitment to:

  • Connect education with careers;
  • Put our natural resources to work;
  • Modernize our state’s infrastructure;
  • And battle poverty by bringing a greater share of opportunity and prosperity to all Oregonians.

Here are a few examples of how Oregon State is a leader in this effort.

The first goal of the University’s own strategic plan emphasizes that OSU will provide a transformative educational experience for all learners.

We will achieve this outcome in classrooms in Corvallis, Bend and Newport and in community settings in places such as Madras and LaPine as we provide learners of all ages with excellent teaching, research opportunities and real-world experiential learning. Doing so will allow our students to be ready for success in life and career.

And in Newport and Corvallis, we continue work on our marine studies initiative. This is an exciting effort to address the most daunting challenges and important marine opportunities facing the world, including climate change, ocean acidification, coastal safety in the event of a tsunami, and available food supply.

We are off to an impressive start: an anonymous donor has pledged $20 million to help build a world-class research and academic building at Newport where we will provide experiential learning opportunities for up to 500 students by 2025. Meanwhile, Oregon legislators are considering another $25 million in bonding to support this effort.

We are also leading Oregon’s recovery through innovation.

By 2017, Oregon State will open a $60 million forest science complex in Corvallis to study and help implement the use of advanced wood products in the construction of high-rise buildings in Oregon and around the world.

Quite simply, this very exciting initiative will help restore high-paying jobs in rural communities on both sides of the Cascades; will increase the value of Oregon’s natural resources across the nation; will showcase how engineered wood products can improve the sustainability of urban cities; and will connect the quality of Oregon wood products and pioneering know-how to large and fast-growing markets in Asia.

The wood products initiative and forest science complex are among our state leaders’ top legislative priorities as Oregon State seeks $30 million in state bonding to match another $30 million that the university will gather in private fund-raising. 

Oregon State also is part of an effort to literally change the face of higher education in America.

OSU and 10 other major national public research universities have formed the University Innovation Alliance in order to significantly increase degrees awarded, as well as retention and graduation rates for low-income students, students of color and first-generation students, while managing costs and raising the quality of our academic programs.

It is time to address the inequality present in U.S. higher education. Today, a student from a family with an annual household income of $90,000 or more has a one in two chance of graduating from college. Yet, a student from a family with a $30,000 household income or less has only a one in 17 chance to earn a college degree.

This alliance is near and dear to my heart. As a first-generation college graduate myself, I know firsthand how important a college education is to one’s future as well as the future of our society.

I intend that Oregon State will be a showcase of access to higher education and quality programs that significantly improve retention and graduation rates. There is much to learn from colleagues at other universities, but I am happy to say that we are already underway, including working with high school and community college partners in the mid-Willamette Valley and Central Oregon to increase student success.

In closing, let me share a few thoughts about this community’s 30-year goal to bring a four-year university to Bend and our plans for a four-year OSU-Cascades campus.

I know that we WILL build a four-year university here and that there is no going back. Approvals for construction of new facilities are following the prescribed legal course. Sometimes passions on both sides of what to do and where to move forward have produced rhetoric on both sides that accomplish little good. This effort will require us to be all in for the sake of the future of Central Oregon and the civil airing of honest differences can lead to smarter decisions.  

Tonight, I call upon each of you to do several things:

  • Commit yourselves to fulfilling your long-time aspirations for having your own university in Bend by not looking back, but only looking forward.
  •  We need each of you to be productively engaged, whether in critiquing proposed next steps or identifying solutions to challenges. Bringing and sustaining a four-year university to Bend is not a spectator sport. It requires your leadership and your engagement.
  • At the close of the constitutional convention, spectators asked Benjamin Franklin whether we had a monarchy or a republic and Franklin replied: “A republic if you can keep it.” You are on the brink of having a four year university here in Bend, if you can keep it.
  • I would ask you to support and work with one of your own: OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson. Becky is tirelessly leading the expansion of OSU-Cascades not because it is her job. But because she believes in Bend and Central Oregon; because she cares about the people who live and work here; and because she knows that a four-year university education is an educational, economic and community difference maker that Bend should not be without.
  •  Join Becky. Join community leaders here tonight, in saying “yes” to a four-year campus that is a central part of the community; “yes” to collaborative planning and problem-solving; “yes” to responsible enrollment growth; and “yes” to local students who otherwise will leave Central Oregon to attend a four-year university somewhere else and may never come back.
  • Trust each other to work together to make this campus a showcase for this community that we all will be proud of. But for goodness sake, let’s get it done right now.

Higher education must be different in the 21st Century than it was when most of us went to school.

The OSU-Cascades campus embodies that difference.

Tomorrow’s universities will no longer be about simply building more and more structures, but about bringing students the best, highest quality and most relevant educational opportunities with technology and information to help them learn even more effectively and become global citizens who make remarkable contributions to our state, our nation and our world.

The future must be about being better, more creative and more nimble. At Oregon State University, we are committed to provide higher education more efficiently and less expensively.

That’s what this nation needs. But we cannot do this alone. We need your support and engagement.

As Oregon State University increases its standing among the best internationally recognized public research universities, we always will remain Oregon’s statewide university – where Oregonians make up 74 percent of our undergraduate class.

At OSU-Cascades, we will remain Bend and Central Oregon’s university, where excellence, leadership and innovation are harnessed in the service of others.

In closing let me assure you of two facts about Oregon State University:

  • We are not done.
  • The best is yet to come.

And when it comes to fulfilling a 30-year dream of having your own four-year university in Bend, there should be no looking back.