Mark McCambridge, former vice president for Finance and Administration at Oregon State University, died Thursday, Jan. 16, from cancer. He was 62.
McCambridge was born in Seattle, Wash., and graduated from Santa Clara University in California. He joined OSU in 1994 as director of Business Services. Before coming to OSU he was executive director of the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation. He held several positions at OSU before being named vice president in 2001. McCambridge retired from OSU in July 2013.
“Mark McCambridge was a very special friend of mine,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “And he was a great friend of many, many people at Oregon State University, within higher education in Oregon and throughout the Corvallis community. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.
“Mark was instrumental in helping to plan the success that OSU is achieving today, and he championed the highest level of public service and fiscal transparency. He accomplished so much and touched so many lives because of his basic decency, integrity, compassion and sense of service. His word was his bond.”
Ray said that McCambridge played a crucial role in shaping many aspects of the university.
“Mark helped to transform the diversity of Oregon State by negotiating an invaluable partnership with INTO University Partnerships that led to doubling of the number of international students attending Oregon State,” he said. “During the past decade, he oversaw an unprecedented pace of new building construction and remodeling on the Oregon State campus and did so with great skill and benefit to our faculty staff and students.”
The Oregon University System honored McCambridge in 2011 for his work in creating a financial system that provided the lowest administrative cost among peer and Oregon public universities during a time of rapid growth in enrollment.
In 2013, McCambridge’s two decades of service were honored with several awards, including the Honorary Alumni Award, presented by the OSU Alumni Association for his key role in reorganizing the university to make the best possible use of its resources, and his advocacy for fiscal transparency. Additionally, McCambridge was honored with one of OSU’s highest honors during Commencement 2013 when he was presented with the Distinguished Service Award.
During his years at Oregon State, McCambridge was considered a champion of OSU’s sustainability efforts, helping the university rise to being fourth in the nation for use of renewable energy. Brandon Trelstad, OSU Sustainability Coordinator, worked with McCambridge on his efforts to make OSU a greener place.
“Mark was a great advocate for sustainability and was instrumental in starting an institutional sustainability program in 2005,” Trelstad said. “During my time at OSU, he became someone who advocated for the cause and developed a keen personal interest in sustainability. His particular support of energy efficiency project funding, as well as expanding much-needed bike parking facilities and supporting our large solar installations, has enabled OSU to be recognized as a sustainability leader.”
Paul Risser was president of OSU from 1996 until 2002. During that time he worked closely with McCambridge, and remained friends after Risser became chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. He is currently chair and chief operating officer of the University of Oklahoma Research Cabinet.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of fine administrators in my time, and Mark was among my most favorite,” Risser said. “He had a wonderful balance of being able to focus on what was right but also took a very human approach.”
Risser said McCambridge’s strong view of what was right made him a natural leader at OSU, and encouraged other administrators and staff to take leaps or make changes under his inspired vision, simply because they believed in his judgment.
This included work to make the OSU budget more transparent and understandable.
“Institutions have to be transparent, especially public institutions,” Risser said. “We had a system at OSU that was well-intentioned but not as complete as it could have been.”
But McCambridge’s determination to make the budget as transparent as possible inspired others at OSU to follow his lead.
“Mark could find a fun irony about an issue,” Risser said, which also helped during difficult times. “He wasn’t aloof or separate.”
Risser said McCambridge’s practicality also came with a sense of optimism that was helpful during times of scarce financial resources for the university, and said his innovative approach to solving problems always lifted any sense of discouragement.
Jay Kenton is Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration for the Oregon University System, and worked with McCambridge in a variety of capacities for the last 20 years.
“He always understood the system’s interest but was quick to defend what was right for OSU,” Kenton said. Toward the end of his career, McCambridge was the most senior of the vice presidents for finance and administration in the state’s university system, and Kenton said he was a great mentor for the younger vice presidents.
“He provided sage advice and counsel, and taught them to think about the state and the system, not just what was good for their own university,” Kenton said.
An enormous amount of construction took place on campus during McCambridge’s tenure, including the building of residence halls, athletic facilities and a state-of-the-art heat plant. McCambridge was a crucial player in those projects.
“He was a genius in getting facility projects improved,” Kenton said, and his work made a tremendous physical difference to the look of campus. Additionally, he was instrumental in working toward creating an OSU branch campus in Bend, in helping restructure the university in a way that decentralized business centers and gave more autonomy to various departments on campus.
Toward the end of his life, Kenton said he sometimes wondered why McCambridge didn’t retire and find some quiet beach to relax, but after speaking with him about the idea, Kenton realized that McCambridge was doing exactly what he wanted to do.
“He gave his life to the organization,” Kenton said. “His heart really was OSU.”
McCambridge is survived by his wife, Betsy, his son, Mark McCambridge, Jr., his daughter and son-in-law Kelly and Jason Hower, and his grandchildren, Patrick and Molly Hower.
A celebration of McCambridge’s life will be held Sunday, Jan. 26, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Oregon State CH2M Hill Alumni Center Ballroom, 725 S.W. 26th St.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Benton County Hospice Services, 2350 N.W. Professional Dr., Corvallis, OR, 97330.