Ed Ray University Day Remarks
September 24, 2009, 10:30am
La Sells Stewart Center


It is always a pleasure to gather for University Day. 

This is our yearly opportunity to celebrate those among us whose accomplishments merit special recognition.  It is an honor to be part of this process, for OSU has many people who achievements are noteworthy. 

I applaud all who will receive awards today.  They richly deserve the acclaim.

University Day is also the occasion for us to take stock of where we are and to look ahead collectively.

Clearly, we are in a difficult and challenging period – as a nation, as a state, and as a University.

In fact, I have acquired a greater appreciation of the old Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times!

I will address our challenges and our opportunities more thoroughly in my address to the Faculty Senate in October, and will share those remarks with the university community.

Today I want each of us to take the time to appreciate how much has been accomplished in the last year. Let me cite a few examples:

  • We have not lost our momentum.  Last year, the OSU faculty secured $252 million in research funding, yet another record set against ever-intensifying competition. That represents an increase in annual funding of almost $100 million in the last six years.
  • We have kept on track with our strategic plan, updated last year, in large part thanks to the dedication and diligence of the Advisory Council on Budget and Strategic Priorities, the Provost, the Deans, and all of you.
  • Our supporters have remained remarkably steadfast, with last year being the second best fundraising year in OSU’s history.  At the end of August, The Campaign for OSU stood at $531million and a number of units on campus have already met their campaign goal with almost two years to go in the campaign. This month we are breaking ground for two major facilities made possible by the Campaign – the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, and the Linus Pauling Science Center.

While we certainly have work to do, especially in this economic climate, we can be very encouraged.

Above all else, we kept to our mission, especially our commitment to prepare our graduates to compete and succeed in a very complex world.

Our success at this is being noticed.  Over 3% of our incoming undergraduates this year ranked first in their class.  We have 77 new Presidential Scholars and nine new National Merit winners.  And over 23% of incoming students are from out-of-state, another measure of our growing reputation.

I am especially pleased that 17% of the incoming students in the University Honors College are students of color.

During the past year we have also kept our focus, despite distractions, on the ways we can serve Oregon and the world.

Time permits only two examples.

First, there has been a lot of talk recently about health insurance.

This is crucial, of course, but it pales next to the really important task, which is improving the health of Oregon and the nation so we can control costs.  If we don’t do this, we are in very serious trouble regardless of our payment scheme.

To its credit, OSU is taking the lead in ways big and small.

I mentioned the Hallie Ford Center, which will have a profound impact.

The increasingly renowned and respected OSU Open Source Lab is involved in several efforts to bring open source software to the health care and government community, where it has significant advantages in improving information processing and costs.

The Master Gardener program of OSU Extension has had a banner year in helping Oregonians grow their own food, a substantial contribution to their finances and their health.

If you ever wonder if the people of Oregon appreciate OSU, then remember these statistics.

  • There are 3,502 Master Gardener volunteers who donated over 173,000 hours to the program last year.
  • The 24 Master Gardener Associations contributed a combined total of $117,310 in support of local and statewide programs.
  • And an amazing 162,000-plus people worked with a Master Gardener in a plant clinic or attended a Master Gardener educational program last year

By partnering with numerous organizations, the Master Gardener Program helps people develop sustainable, water-wise landscapes; eliminate invasive plants; and pursue local and backyard food production that contributes to a sustainable food system, greater food security and a nutrient rich diet.

It’s not just the Master Gardeners.

This summer OSU Extension launched the “Food Hero” initiative aimed at the two-thirds of Oregonians who eat less than the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, a problem that is especially prevalent in low-income households.

The Division of Outreach and Engagement just made available, free of charge, a new online course called "Mastery of Aging Well: A Program for Healthy Living."

And, of course, we are in the process of providing the Linus Pauling Institute and our Chemistry program with the kind of facility needed to continue our essential worldwide work in nutrition and health.

Initiatives like this, applied broadly, will help lead all Americans to better health, less chronic illness, and reduced suffering and financial expense.  We must do this.

The second example I want to mention is our involvement in a new ocean science initiative.

All of you know that NOAA is moving to Newport from Seattle.  Clearly, OSU and the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center played an essential part in this relocation, which will bring incalculable benefits to this state over time.

Fewer people realize that OSU is also a key participant in the recently announced Oceans Observatories Initiative, the largest civilian oceanographic research project in the history of the United States.

The impact of this project on areas important to Oregon such as fisheries, climate science, seafloor geology and others is going to be enormous.

Four major oceanographic institutions are leading this project: Woods Hole Oceanographic, Scripps Institution, the University of Washington …

And Oregon State University! 

And when it was time to pick a first director for this critical national project, the choice was Professor Tim Cowles of the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. 

If you are known by the company you keep, then it is very meaningful that so many OSU faculty members and colleges and units are being invited – in oceanography and many other fields – to bigger and better parties!

We face a lot of challenges.

I believe we are going to emerge a better, more focused, and more effective institution thanks of the choices we are making right now.

And, even more, because of the contributions so many of you make every day to our success.

Thank you, and have a great year.