Lazy days of summer not so at OSU

Once an idyllic, quiet time at Oregon State, summer seems increasingly to follow the same hectic pace of the rest of the school year, with news of prominent hires, budding academic initiatives, research projects and more vying for the attention of the considerably smaller employee population each day.

If your summer itinerary took you away for research, a sabbatical or just a good old-fashioned vacation, you may have missed some particularly interesting campus happenings. LIFE@OSU offers this recap for the information challenged.

OSU President Ed Ray presents honorary degrees to 23 former students of Japanese ancestry who were forced to leave OSU during the early years of World War II.  (photo:  Jim Folts)

OSU President Ed Ray presents honorary degrees to 23 former students. (photo: Jim Folts)

June
If you were unable to attend OSU’s 139th commencement ceremony, you not only missed the university’s largest-ever graduation, with some 4,600 degrees awarded, but the presentation of honorary degrees to 23 former students of Japanese ancestry who were forced to leave the university during the early years of World War II.

Victims of U.S. Executive Order 9066, which sent many of them to internment camps, most of the former students have since died. But several attended the ceremony, moving many in the crowd to tears by their grace and dignity.

Bindi, Terri and Bob Irwin

Bindi, Terri and Bob Irwin visit Corvallis. (photo: OSU Foundation)

Later in the month, Terri Irwin, wife of the late Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, came to Corvallis to sign a memo of understanding with the OSU Marine Mammal Institute to fund a series of upcoming whale expeditions headed by Professor Bruce Mate. Accompanied by her Emmy-award winning, 9-year-old daughter, Bindi, and 4-year-old son, Bob, Terri captivated a standing-only crowd at the CH2M HILL Alumni Center and patiently indulged multiple interview requests.

Terri, who is originally from Oregon, disclosed that she and Bindi also plan to accompany Mate on at least one of the expeditions, which will be filmed for later broadcast on the Animal Planet cable network.

Simonich tag

OSU Associate Professor Staci Simonich and Peking University student Wentao Wang gather air samples from a rooftop in Beijing during the Summer Olympics.

July
News that Staci Simonich, an OSU associate professor of chemistry and toxicology, would be part of an international team monitoring air quality in smoggy Beijing during the Summer Olympics prompted a spate of major, big media coverage. Outlets ranging from the Wall Street Journal to National Geographic to USA Today seized on the story, as did the Reuters and Associated Press wire services, sending the story around the globe.

The air quality, it turns out, was lousy for the Aug. 8 – 24 games, but not as bad as expected, Simonich reported. Chinese efforts to clean things up reduced particulates by 20 to 40 percent over previous year measures, but still left the air considerably below cleanliness standards that many visiting athletes experience in their home countries.

An interesting new partnership between OSU and the London-based Into University Partnerships firm began attracting its own considerable news attention in July. The agreement, the first that Into has signed with a U.S. university, aims to attract significantly more international students to OSU. If successful, the partnership could increase OSU tuition revenue by $25 million over the next five years. The New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education were among the media writing about the arrangement, which promises to draw much more attention over the coming school year.

August
A pair of prominent new hires were announced in the first half of the month: new College of Liberal Arts Dean Lawrence R. Rodgers and Stephen Brandt, new director of the Oregon Sea Grant Program.

Rodgers , associate dean of Kansas State University’s College of Arts and Sciences since 2002, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a scholar in ethnic and racial minority literature. He’s been a recognized innovator at Kansas State, leading establishment of a first-year experience program and leading creation of a university-wide strategic plan. Rodgers replaced Vice Provost Larry Roper, who had served as interim dean over the past year.

Brandt comes to OSU from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, replacing Robert Malouf, who served as Sea Grant director from 1991 until June of this year. An accomplished scientist with more than 90 publications, 80-plus scientific cruises and more than 220 presentations to his credit, Brandt begins work in Corvallis in January 2009.

Finally, if the dog days of summer left you feeling your age, George Poinar put the passage of time in perspective with his discovery of the world’s oldest gecko.

Poinar, a courtesy professor at OSU and one of the world’s leading experts on insects, plants and other life forms trapped in amber, published the finding in the journal Zootaxa along with fellow researchers from the National History Museum in London. The ancient lizard’s age? One hundred million, give or take a few summers.

~ by Todd Simmons

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