When the OSU community first heard that First Lady Beth Ray had been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer, the immediate reaction was one of support and love. Beth was especially touched when a card arrived, signed by the entire OSU football team.
“Talk about a shocker,” she said with a laugh. A lifetime educator, mother, and current spouse of a university president, students have always come first for Beth, and it’s no surprise that students love her back.
That love and dedication was celebrated Monday, Jan. 13, in a ceremony renaming the OSU Student Success Center in as the Beth Ray Center for Academic Support.
The push to rename the center in her honor was largely driven by student enthusiasm. After the idea was proposed by OSU Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee unanimously supported the idea of changing the name of the center to honor her, and the student government organization ASOSU also supported the plan.
Beth is seen by many students as a mentor and supporter, making the building, which is oriented toward student support, a natural extension of her interest in student success.
“The Beth Ray Center for Academic Support will serve as an essential place where all students can gather throughout the day and evenings to receive personal assistance along their path to graduation,” said Provost and Vice President Sabah Randhawa.
Beth was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer in May. The cancer is considered fast acting and incurable, but chemotherapy is slowing the spread, and the emphasis is on keeping her comfortable for as long as possible. She said she considers herself lucky that she isn’t having much reaction to the chemotherapy, and doesn’t need to rely much on pain medication.
“It doesn’t seem to bother me,” Beth said. But the fatigue does slow her down, and she’s had to cut back on many of the social engagements she normally attends as First Lady.
“There are times when I can’t go out,” she said. But she tries to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible, including travel with Ed, serving on various boards and volunteer organizations, and doing her best to preserve her lifestyle as much as possible.
“The more you do, the better you feel,” she said. Her family has provided her with a lot of support, and many of them will be attending the building rededication.
Beth said she was both surprised and excited about the news of the building renaming, and pleased that the honor focused on student support. A former business law professor, academic counselor and assistant dean for academic advising, Beth, 67, has been teaching and mentoring students for many years.
“Most of my career involves working with students,” Beth said.
In her 10 years at OSU, Beth has seen many of the students she’s mentored go on to graduate and thrive. She keeps in contact with a number of them, taking the opportunity to have lunch and visit when they’re in the area. And each year a whole new crop of students arrives on campus in need of support and advice.
“I’d tell freshmen to talk to their professors and advisors, and if they have a problem to share it,” she said. “Most people try to hide their problems, but you shouldn’t feel bad about asking people questions.”
Jaimee Kirkpatrick, executive assistant to Coach Craig Robinson, was one of the students Beth took under her wing as an OSU student. She said through many challenges and successes, the Rays were always there to support and guide her.
“Beth Ray holds an even more special place in my heart as she was one of the only female adults that took care of me as I went through some major surgeries during my time as a student at Oregon State,” Kirkpatrick said. “While my parents were living in Alaska, Beth took over and comforted, encouraged, and supported me through some very significant challenges in my life to date.”
The $14 million Student Success Center opened in 2012, and houses programs that provide both the general student population and student-athletes with a range of academic support services. Hundreds of students are served every day in the building. The facility includes classrooms, a computer lab, study lounge and commons area as well as academic counseling and advising offices, meeting rooms and tutorial spaces.
~ Theresa Hogue