Former OSU President Roy Young dies

Former OSU President Roy A. Young (OSU Archives)

Former OSU President Roy A. Young (OSU Archives)

Former president of Oregon State University Roy Alton Young passed away on April 19, 2013, in Corvallis following a lengthy illness. He was 92.

Roy, who served as acting president of OSU in 1969-70, was a faculty member and administrator at the university from 1948 to 1976, and returned to the university in 1986, where he served as director of the Office of Natural Resources Policy until 1990.

Young also served as a faculty member and administrator at the University of Nebraska (1976-1980), and Cornell University (1980-1986).

Roy Arnold, former Dean of Agricultural Sciences and former Provost at Oregon State University, first met Young when he became Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I was a faculty member and department head at that time.  I had occasion to interact with him through some university committee work,” Arnold recalled. “He took a personal interest in me, and provided some useful career advice.”

The two connected again when Arnold came to OSU in 1987.

“In addition to his outstanding accomplishments as a scientist and his competence as an academic administrator and leader,” Arnold said, “Roy was always a true gentleman in his interactions with others.”

Young was born March 1, 1921 in McAlister, N.M. He obtained an Associate of Arts degree from Eastern New Mexico Junior College in 1939, a B.S. in Biology from New Mexico State University in 1941, and an M.S. in Plant Pathology from Iowa State University in 1942. He was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy serving as a deck officer, navigator, anti-submarine warfare, and Executive Officer in the Atlantic and Pacific areas of operation from 1942 to 1946. He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1946 to 1954 and was promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander. Following his military service, he returned to Iowa State University and completed requirements for the Ph.D. in Plant Pathology in 1948.

Young came to Oregon State University in 1948 as an Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology. He taught graduate courses on bacterial diseases of plants and plant disease control. Principal research efforts were on diseases of ornamentals and potatoes with emphasis on soil borne diseases and on fungicide research. He served as head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology from 1958 until 1966, when he was appointed Dean of Research with campus-wide responsibility for research coordination.

Following the resignation of President James Jensen to become vice rector of Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Young served as Acting President of OSU from June 1969 until July 1970, during a time when student demonstrations were common across the nation. Described in the 1970 Beaver as “renowned, persuasive, and respected”, Young dealt sensitively with issues of student unrest by turning “dissent into constructive activity”. When classes were canceled for one day in May 1970 following the Kent State shootings, more than 40 discussion groups involving faculty, ROTC representatives, student leaders, and activists were held. Young’s decision to cancel classes and focus on discussions may have prevented larger demonstrations on the OSU campus.

Roy Young, former OSU professor and administrator.

Roy Young, former OSU professor and administrator.

Young was named the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies from 1970 to 1976. Young received Oregon State’s highest honor in 1985, the Distinguished Service Award. The award citation described him as one of the outstanding leaders in the history of OSU, and as a scholar, gentleman, and man of great talent and integrity who helped build the campus to national prominence and as a prime mover in the designation of OSU as one of four Sea Grant Centers in the United States, the growth of research and scientific programs, and securing of facilities.

Young served as chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln from 1976 – 1980. He led efforts at UNL to increase the quality standards for student admissions and enhancement of the teaching and research programs of the campus. Young departed UNL to accept the post of president and managing director of the prestigious Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in Ithaca, New York, where he served from 1980 – 1986.

He published extensively and was a member of numerous advisory and study committees of the National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He served as president of the Pacific Divisions of the American Phytopathological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was active in national energy and environmental programs. He also served on the executive committee of the National Governors’ Council on Science and Technology. Young was a member of the Rockefeller Foundation panel on postdoctoral fellowships in environmental sciences and he held various leadership positions in the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges.

He received the Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from New Mexico State University in 1978. Young and his wife, Marilyn, received the 2004 Dan Poling Service Award from OSU. He was a member of Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Sigma, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Rotary.

Young is survived by his wife of 63 years, Marilyn, and their two children, Janet of Merced, California, and Randall of Portland.

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