Edward J. Ray, President, University Day Remarks
September 23, 2010, 10:30am
La Sells Stewart Center
It is a pleasure to welcome you to this year’s University Day celebration.
There is something fitting, I believe, in starting each school year – and this is my eighth at OSU – by celebrating our colleagues’ achievements and contributions. It is a wonderful reminder of our collective purpose and illustrates the extent to which we are surrounded by excellence in teaching, research, outreach and service.
Let me extend my congratulations to all those recognized today. These are well-deserved honors and meaningful examples of all that is great about Oregon State University.
As we open this academic year, we are coming through a difficult stretch for both our country and this institution. If the nation’s recovery from the recession continues to be slow and uncertain, there is little uncertainty about Oregon’s circumstances. Our state faces serious budget shortfalls for the next few years. As they have in the past, these will affect us here.
Despite these challenges, I believe Oregon State University enters this year in a financially sound position. I will detail our financial situation at greater length in my remarks to the Faculty Senate next month. For now let me just say that hard work and shared sacrifice by everyone associated with OSU has been effective. The basic message I delivered last June regarding our ability to weather difficult financial conditions in the state still holds, despite further deterioration in the state revenue picture.
As a community, however, we need to do a better job of looking after each other. When I speak to the Faculty Senate I will describe some of the actions we will take immediately to improve conditions for all of us and for our community. There will be opportunities for each of you to make a difference this school year, too, though efforts like the Charitable Fund Drive and the OSU Food Drive. Those efforts brought in nearly $127,000 and 253 tons of food last year, respectively, and are so critical to members of the university and greater Corvallis communities. When those efforts get underway, I encourage each of you who can to consider taking part.
As we begin the 2010 school year, it’s great to note that those two charitable successes are part of a foundation of remarkable recent achievements and trends that promise continued progress for the months ahead. Let me detail a few.
The Campaign for OSU
Some of you will recall the 2007 University Day, when I spoke to you on the eve of the public announcement of The Campaign for OSU and reported we had raised over $300 million in the quiet phase, toward an ambitious goal of $625 million dollars by June of 2011.
It seemed a large amount. The target was a long way off and the time short, especially considering this was OSU’s first university-wide fundraising effort.
Today it is an enormous pleasure to tell you we are just over $615 million with nearly a year to go, a milestone we reached despite the unsettled economy.
This accomplishment, which should make everyone associated with OSU proud, is a shared one.
- We have received extraordinary leadership from our volunteers and seen pace-setting generosity from our donors.
- This generosity has included many of you and your colleagues. In fact, over 2,700 current and former OSU employees have given more than $10.5 million to the campaign, with gifts ranging from $25 for the KidSpirit Program to $1 million for an endowed professorship in Liberal Arts!
- The work of the OSU Foundation and the Alumni Association has been – and remains – exemplary. Our future is demonstrably brighter because the Foundation and Association are much stronger, and we are all working together much better!
- Members of the administration and the Deans have worked tirelessly as well, and achievements like the Hallie Ford Center, Linus Pauling Science Center, Kelley Engineering Center, Student Success Center, Kearney Hall, and the just-announced Austin business building are just the most visible examples of the improvements they helped generate.
Ultimately, the success of The Campaign for OSU is a vote of confidence in all of you and your peers. Our donors are investing in OSU’s faculty and students! Theirs is a profound endorsement of your role – and OSU’s place – in the lives of Oregonians and Oregon’s communities and businesses.
I am reminded of Balz Frei’s remarks at the groundbreaking for the new Linus Pauling Science Center. He called the process of securing the necessary gifts a great adventure and thanked Mike Goodwin for the experience!
It has been a great adventure – and an essential one. I think therefore you can expect further announcements about our goal and the duration of our campaign.
Success, as they say, has its consequences!
Simply put, we have enjoyed performance in the research enterprise equal to our success in the campaign. In fact, I believe the two results are connected, as donors see OSU demonstrating its ability to solve problems and generate innovations that lead to new products, businesses, jobs and social vitality.
The outlines may well known to some of you, but for those of you who may have missed them over the summer, consider this:
- Last year’s total of $275 million in research grants and contracts represents another record and a doubling of research performance over the past 10 years.
- The benefits of this research become more tangible every year. For instance, Home Dialysis Plus, an OSU start-up company, just landed $50 million in venture capital funding, the largest such early investment in Oregon history.
- Likewise, the number of discoveries emerging from OSU that show real promise for improving human health and our understanding of key natural processes rises steadily.
Speaking to a group of Portland area alumni CEO’s two weeks ago, our new Vice President for Research, Rick Spinrad, said OSU was now in the “big leagues” as a research institution, with future opportunities to match. That fact was underscored by the recently released Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, which this fall for the first time included OSU in its list of America’s top research universities in external funding.
The signs of growth and success are equally encouraging in the classroom and in extra-curricular areas.
OSU students continue to enjoy success, whether it is once again dominating international Baja Car and Mars Rover competitions or winning admission, as Honors College student Marsha Lampi did, to a summer internship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where she was one of 24 students selected from around the world.
We had two students selected for Fulbright Scholarships, and this fall welcome 15 new National Merit Scholars – an OSU record.
We are developing state-of-the-art classrooms and teaching innovations in physics, biology, and other disciplines.
We will add new faculty, including 15 new positions in critically important disciplines in the Arts and Sciences.
Oregon’s best and brightest students are noticing. For the last three years, the Oregonian reports, we have been the leading choice for the Portland area’s top students. This year, we more than doubled up on the second place school, which I expect left them green with envy.
Nor is it just Oregon high school students. Our enrollment has grown dramatically the past two years, so that we are projecting nearly 24,000 students at the opening of school this year. We have higher proportions of foreign students and out-of-state students.
In Bend, where our OSU-Cascades campus is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, we have also seen steady enrollment growth to close to 700 students and increasing levels of institutional stability, direction, and collaboration. The University of Oregon will transition out of Cascades this fall, and OSU will be the sole provider of education for this rapidly growing and increasingly important and appreciated branch campus.
And speaking of OSU Cascades, Vice President Becky Johnson and her faculty and staff couldn’t be here today, but did want to share a few thoughts with you.”
We are also better able to support students’ aspirations. We have exceeded our $100 million campaign goal for scholarships and fellowships. And prestigious organizations such as ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) now support OSU students with outside funds. We are one of only 48 institutions in the country that receive funds from ARCS, and they just added another four outstanding engineering doctoral students to the four they began supporting in 2008.
Thanks to our faculty, the undergraduate experience is increasingly marked by excellence. Allow me to highlight a few examples:
- Our head advisors, registrar, and information technology people have been hard at work bringing a new advising system online. The system, Degree Works, will substantially benefit students and allow our dedicated advisors to offer much higher-order guidance.
- Last year we launched a website and related activities to boost awareness of and opportunities for undergraduate research, one of the distinct advantages we can offer our students.
And, at its June meeting the Faculty Senate unanimously approved a set of Learning Goals for Graduates. These goals encompass all aspects of undergraduate academic and co-curricular experience. I am deeply grateful to the Senate and its president, Leslie Burns, for their hard work and persistence on this important issue. In Dr. Burns words, these Learning Goals should “become the thread that ties together OSU’s undergraduate experience.”
As I tell entering students every year, OSU offers them incredible opportunities for engagement and discovery. The Faculty Senate’s action promises to contribute substantially to making these opportunities more tangible and accessible to all our students.
Individual faculty members continue to win awards and recognition, which contributes to OSU’s scholarly vitality, raises our visibility, and increases our ability to act in our signature areas and promote educational excellence across the curriculum.
Let me close by referencing a recent event that illustrates the many ways people here work to advance OSU.
This summer OSU hosted 286 high-achieving students from around the world for the first International Baccalaureate World Student Conference ever held in the continental U.S. Michele Sandlin in the Admissions Office worked tirelessly with her colleagues to win the right to host this event and to organize it.
As you know, IB students are among the most motivated and hardest working secondary school students, regardless of their country of residence. In this case, 12 countries were represented and students were linked around the world electronically.
OSU received great visibility as a global university – and a gratifying number of prospective students have expressed interest as a result.
At the end of the conference, during presentations, an American student recounted an incident a few days earlier with her issues team.
These teams were multi-cultural, multi-national cohorts that worked on global challenges. Many of the students on them had competed to come here because in-country funds were so limited.
Her team, the American student related, was walking back to McNary Hall when one of the team members started walking with his arms fully outspread and his face turned upward.
“Are you OK,” she asked him worriedly.
“I feel so free,” he responded. “Just to walk in the open with green grass, beautiful buildings, and I'm on my way to eat wonderful food, as much as I want and so many choices.”
It is good to remind ourselves how much OSU can – and does – offer to people who look to us for education, inspiration, and opportunity.
Thank you for your contributions toward those worthy and noble goals and for being here with all of us today to celebrate the new school year and some special and well deserving colleagues.