Text of Pres. Ed Ray’s University Day 2011 speech

Thank you, and welcome to the opening of the 2011-12 academic year.  It is a pleasure to mark this day every year, and to look forward to honoring people who have made distinctive contributions to the University.

Let me use the few minutes I have to take stock of where we are.

When I came to OSU in 2003 – and I know many of you are familiar with this story– budgets were being cut and the mood was a little grim.  When I set out to meet with faculty, well-meaning folks warned me, “You know, a lot of faculty members are a little depressed.”

And I said to the faculty, when I met with them, “You know, given everything that’s going on, if you’re not a little depressed, you’re not paying attention.”

Well, I think I can say today that if you look around at Oregon State University and you are not proud of your part in what is going on, then you are not paying attention!

And I know you are all paying attention.

When we adopted our Strategic Plan in 2003 and began planning The Campaign for OSU, one of the things we talked about was the importance of doing our part to prepare OSU for the future so we could better serve Oregon and the world.

The evidence is that collectively we are doing this well despite the challenges we face.  Let me give you some examples.

We said it was essential we help keep Oregon’s best and brightest students in Oregon.

Well, over the last three years OSU has been enrolling more top-ranked Portland area students than any university anywhere.  This fall we were more than twice as successful as the second place school.

We made the same order of commitment when it came to diversity, and we have increased the percentage of minority students every year.

We are also much more international than we were.  We have more out of state students.  More graduate students.

Many of you will remember conversations about how essential it was that the University and Foundation and Alumni Association collaborate more effectively so that OSU could get up to speed with our contemporaries in fundraising.  This was crucial if our aspirations for OSU’s future were ever going to be realized.

Well, the success there has been really gratifying.  At the end of August we were at $743 million toward our reset goal of $850 million.  The success of this first-ever capital campaign has been remarkable. In particular, over the last year we have focused on increasing endowed faculty positions through the Campaign. We have more doubled the number of endowed faculty positions since the campaign started, and our total now stands at 95.  In this spirit, I am pleased to announce today that Allyn Ford, the head of Roseburg Forest Products, and his wife Cheryl Ramberg-Ford, have just made a $5 million commitment to endow the Dean’s position in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. This is the second endowed deanship created during the Campaign for OSU.

And the OSU Foundation is now regarded as one of the real leaders among similar organizations nationally.

The numbers I think you should focus on and feel especially good about are these:

•    As of last spring, over 57,000 households have contributed to the Campaign.  Incidentally, this includes many faculty and staff, both current and emeritus. And

•    More than one-third of all Campaign gifts have been from donors making their first contribution to OSU!  That’s extraordinary, and it says a lot about the ability of the Foundation, the Alumni Association, and our volunteers to get more people on board and your ability to garner support for the important work you do here.

The news has been equally good for our research program.  We have routinely set records, and last year – when many of our peers were down significantly – we held our own at $262 million.

We talked about positioning OSU to make greater contributions to Oregon’s economic and social prosperity.  Here again, we’ve made great strides:

•    In Oceanography and other disciplines, we are now leading major national multi-year research initiatives in critical areas like climate change and ocean wave energy.

•    We have secured 89 U.S. & Foreign Patents and executed 156 licenses in the last 4 years.  Some of these discoveries, such as transparent electronics (HP) and soy-based laminate glues, could become entire new industries.

•    And we have established 10 startups based on OSU funded research, with approximately $140M raised and 175 jobs created so far.

As you all know, thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends we are also transforming the campus physically with new facilities and renovated classrooms.

In sum, working together we are doing a lot to help strengthen OSU as a vibrant, growing institution able to pursue its mission passionately and effectively.  You should be very proud indeed.

I know there has been a cost to this.  Many people in this community have worked, and continue to work, at nearly an unsustainable pace and the sense of community that is so important in the history and fabric of this great place has been strained.

In my speech later this Fall to the Faculty Senate I will outline some of the steps we are taking to address this issue.  Let me highlight just a few of them.

For starters, we are adding new faculty, with 30 new tenure track positions added this year.  We will soon announce plans for adding additional new faculty.  We have also provided funds to add sections to so-called bottleneck courses.

We will moderate our enrollment growth rate and focus on recruiting entering classes that are increasing diverse and include the best and brightest students.

We are taking internal actions, including adding an ombudsperson and acting to address bullying on campus.

The Campus Business Centers are already helping streamline operations, and we are working diligently at the system level to make sure the new status for the university system translates into more operating freedom and flexibility on campuses.

We have come through a very bad economy in solid financial shape.  More importantly, we have been able to maintain our momentum and stick carefully to our Strategic Plan.  This is a credit to everyone in the community.

When we see the continuity of outstanding students and faculty who study and learn here; the students and faculty who join us this fall; and our graduates – our alumni – who represent this university in the world, we should be very proud.

When we celebrate the accomplishments of our colleagues, as we will shortly, we should be very proud.

This University is engaged in a continuing, evolving statement about our responsibility and opportunity to serve the state and nation and world.  We are all privileged to have a part in that mission. And the statement we are making together is profound and wonderful.

Thank you, and have a great year.

~ Ed Ray

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