It is with heavy hearts that we announce the retirement of Dr. Bruce Rettig, associate dean of the Graduate School and longtime faculty to the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Bruce is leaving after 39 years at OSU, the last seven as liaison, policy advisor, and general trouble-shooter for the graduate community here.
"Informed, articulate, fair, attentive, insightful, responsive — and all with a wonderful levity." That's how colleague John Selker sums up Bruce's approach to administration. His genuine concern for the people and programs of Oregon State will be deeply missed.
Raised on a farm in north-central Montana, Bruce began his studies in economics at the University of Montana. He moved to Northwestern for his master's degree, and to the University of Washington for his Ph.D. Jim Crutchfield, his mentor there, recommended him for an OSU position as assistant professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics in 1968, and he became a full professor in 1985.
Bruce was a popular teacher and active researcher. His career took an exciting turn in 1977 as a result of a sabbatical year at the University of Washington. Under the guidance of Don McKernan in the Institute for Marine Studies, he helped arrange a national conference on limited access in fisheries. From the proceedings of that conference, he co-edited a book that drew a great deal of attention, and soon afterwards was invited to participate in a related conference in Rome. That gave rise to conferences and collegial connections in Iceland, Chile, Taiwan, the Azores, France, Japan, and Germany.
Bruce was also involved in the establishment of two important regional conservation alliances. He spent four years on the scientific and statistical committee of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and one year on the scientific and statistical advisory committee of the Northwest Power Planning Council.
"I guess I've always been passionate about policy and outreach — being useful to someone somewhere," Bruce says.
During much of his time in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Bruce served as graduate coordinator, working directly with students and helping create policies to improve the graduate program. Beginning in 1996, he also served on the Graduate Council. When the position of associate dean of the Graduate School opened in September 2000, he saw it as an opportunity to do more of what he most enjoyed.
In his job at the Graduate School, Bruce continued his involvement with the Graduate Council, helping guide curriculum development, review new program proposals, approve graduate faculty, and interpret national trends that impact graduate education at OSU. He's also a problem-solver, working with students, department heads, faculty members, advisors, and admissions officers to defuse complicated issues.
One colleague who considers Bruce's problem-solving skills to be invaluable is Professor Lynda Ciuffetti, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and President-Elect of the Faculty Senate. "When I served as chair of the Graduate Council, Bruce was absolutely instrumental in helping Council business move forward. He would explain issues in a way that would help me and the other Council members see the situation clearly so evaluation was easier. He was absolutely fabulous! I couldn't imagine serving in that position without his input and efforts."
"To be honest, some of the things I may have done the best are not necessarily the things I enjoyed the most," Bruce says. "People come to me when they just can't work things out on their own. I often feel really stressed, helping them think through the options and move on. I can't say this kind of experience is highly enjoyable, but I've always felt it's terribly important."
Problem-solving is one of the things Bruce will miss most when he retires. He hates to leave the big-picture policy discussions, and lose his place among those who are crafting long-range solutions to major issues in graduate education. He'll also miss the sense of connection, and the collegiality of a workplace where he has interacted with so many people.
If he's left his mark on the Graduate School, Bruce says, he hopes it's by nurturing an environment that's accessible and where people enjoy working together.
"I have a deep commitment to connection with the people I work with," he says. We have rules, and people who come to us don't always like the answers they get, but we try to work things through with them. My sense is that the people here will continue to make that a priority."
Sally Francis, Graduate Dean, is certain that the staff and faculty of the Graduate School will continue to work with the campus with a commitment equal to Bruce's. But she is also certain that Bruce's departure will be sorely felt. "When I first announced to campus Bruce's appointment to the Graduate School seven years ago, I wrote that Bruce was superbly suited to the position of Associate Dean. At that time, I didn't know Bruce well, but I soon learned that my statement was the understatement of the century! Bruce simply can't be replaced."
Bruce plans to take some time before committing himself to the next challenge. It may involve working with international students or redeveloping his ties to natural resource policymaking bodies.
"All the issues are still out there," he says. "After all these years, you get a good perspective on your own ability to influence them. You may not be able to solve the whole problem, but other people are engaged, and maybe it would help to be a player."