University Day 2008

Edward J. Ray
President, Oregon State University
UNIVERSITY DAY
Thursday, September 18, 2008, 10:30 a.m.
LaSells Stewart Center

Thank you.

Welcome to University Day 2008.

As I look back over my last five University Days, two things stand out.

The first is the many remarkable people we have been privileged to recognize —and with whom we are privileged to work every day.

This year is no different. We will honor many deserving people today.

We’ve also had many faculty recognized during the year for their achievements. For instance, Jim Carrington, professor of botany and plant pathology, who was chosen Researcher of the Year by OSU’s scientific honor society, Sigma Xi; elected to the National Academy of Sciences; and awarded a prestigious MERIT Award from the NIH for his ”superior competence and outstanding productivity.”

Not many scientists anywhere can point to a triple play like this one!

Other noteworthy honors for faculty last year include:

  • The National Science Foundation granted competitive CAREER Awards to two engineering professors, Vinod Narayanan, assistant professor of thermal and fluid science, and Alex Yokochi, assistant professor of chemical engineering.
  • Soil scientists David Myrold and Peter Bottomley received the Soil Science Society of America Research Award;
  • And three faculty members from the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences – Dudley Chelton, Robert Duncan and Anne Trehu – were named Fellows of the American Geophysical Union, the AGU. Since only one in 1,000 AGU members can ever be named a Fellow — it’s a rule of membership — having three scientists chosen from a single university in one year is remarkable.
  • Jane Lubchenco, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology, won extraordinary international attention when she was named co-winner of the Zayed International Prize for the Environment for being “a world leader in environmental sciences.”

This is necessarily only a partial list of faculty achievements. I think it testifies to the impact you all have on the really pressing issues of our time.

For me, the second prominent theme of University Day is the continuing collective effort we have made to become excellent as a university.

The pursuit of excellence is never easy and success is rarely achieved.

What I want to say to you today is that Oregon State University has enjoyed a remarkable year as we pursue excellence!

Everyone here — and all your colleagues — should be proud of what has been accomplished by the OSU community working together.

As with faculty achievements, it is impossible to mention every highlight, because you have collectively produced a very long list of things worthy of mention! I will cite just a few:

One long-awaited accomplishment was the signing of the final Degree Partnership Program agreement last spring. OSU is now partnering with each and every one of Oregon’s 17 community colleges. We have been a pace setter nationally with this program, thanks to diligent work by people in the registrars office, enrollment management, and elsewhere.

We have also launched a concerted effort involving faculty, students and staff to make OSU a leader environmentally, matching our research and teaching prowess with “walk the talk” institutional behavior.

Therefore, you can be especially proud that not only were we an early signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, we have planned and are executing a strategy to meet ambitious goals. And we are being nationally recognized for our success;

  • The Kaplan College Guide 2009 listed OSU among America’s top 25 “green colleges.”
  • The U.S. EPA ranked OSU one of the nation’s top five higher education users of “green power” and the best in the Pac 10.
  • And Sustainable Endowment Institute listed OSU as among the nation’s top 25 campuses in their College Sustainability Report Card.

We have had excellent leadership in this effort from OSU staff in many areas, and I want to recognize especially Brandon Trelstad, our sustainability coordinator, and the people who work with him.

Another important area where we continue to demonstrate excellence is the research performance of the OSU faculty. It is especially noteworthy, given the intense competition for external support, that last year OSU set another record for research funding, $231 million.

This is an increase of $25 million over the previous year, and an increase of $75 million in the last 5 years. It testifies to the quality and impact of the work of OSU researchers and their students.

We also continue to see the benefits of corporate partnerships. With help from the OSU Foundation, the Research Office has analyzed strategies for increasing our capabilities as an institution in this area, and as we enact these strategies this year we should begin to see some significant benefits.

Also noteworthy is the growing number of undergraduates involved in research, a significant boost to the quality of education we can offer, and to student retention.

We continue to attract and retain exceptional faculty, the heart of the university.

Let me especially note the arrival on campus of Lawrence Rodgers, the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts. We are pleased he is here. I also want to thank Larry Roper for his outstanding service as interim dean.

Another indication that we are making headway in pursuing excellence is student success in national competitions.

For example, we had a record number of students, six, selected as Fulbright Award winners last year.

And we had one student, Tari Tan, a senior last year in biochemistry-biophysics, selected as one of the top 40 undergraduate scholars in the nation by USA Today. What Tari said ought to make everyone here very proud: “I cannot envision a better undergraduate experience.”

And many of you probably followed the adventures of the OSU solar car, Rain Dancer, and the Robotics Team that won the 2008 University Rover Challenge at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

Incidentally, the Mars Rover team had a public test run of their Rover a month or so before the competition, and it failed miserably. This made the team realize they needed more varied talents before the competition. I was really struck by what one of the team members said: “Anyone with enough motivation was welcome to help.”

I think we can agree this is a pretty good motto!

It’s not a surprise, when you see the success OSU students have at challenges like these, that our ability to attract students remains strong.

  • Enrollment in OSU is up 41% in the last ten years!
  • The test scores and GPA’s of incoming students are also rising. This year the average GPA is 3.46, highest in the OUS.

We continue to realize progress in our efforts to make OSU a more diverse community, and to expand the programs and venues where we can support diversity and make diversity part of an exceptional education for our students.

Last fall we welcomed the most diverse class in OSU’s history, this fall will be even better. We are also well on our way to beginning to address the physical needs of our cultural centers, and I hope to have good news in this regard later this fall. I am absolutely committed to the plan being developed to replace the cultural centers with new facilities in the coming years, beginning during the Campaign for OSU and continuing until the job is completed.

Beth and I had the privilege of representing Oregon State University at the 40th Jubilee celebration of our OUS exchange partnerships with 7 universities in Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany in June. At the closing ceremony the OSU Choir performed to a standing ovation in the 500 year old Betenhausen Monastery in Tubingen before an audience of hundreds of celebrants. The wife of the Rector observed to me that she had never heard a choir express such soul and passion and sheer joy for making music. The Chancellor was there along with Dave and Lynn Frohnmayer and others, all of whom expressed great pride in the performance by our students.

Finally, I believe all your accomplishments — and all the highlights of the recent past — are captured and reflected in the remarkable success of The Campaign for OSU.

This was by far the greatest fundraising year in OSU’s history. In partnership with the OSU Foundation, we came out of the campaign kick-off last October with tremendous momentum, and despite the economic climate we have continued to flourish. We recorded commitments of $126.8 million in the fiscal year that closed June 30th, about $50 million more than in any previous year.

At the end of August, The Campaign for OSU stood at nearly $442 million

There are a few key related points I’d like to make:

  • We have benefited from a terrific collaboration among faculty and staff with remarkable leadership at the Foundation and the OSU Alumni Association, and I want to acknowledge the important role of each of those organizations here today. The cooperative culture we are building across the campus community will serve us well for years to come.
  • Our donors are making thoughtful investments, evidence they clearly see the regional and global value of OSU’s programs and our potential for excellence in education, research, and service. We have had 533 gifts of over $100,000, and more than 45,000 OSU families — alumni, faculty and friends — have contributed.
  • The 24 new endowed faculty positions already produced by the campaign are strong contributors to excellence.

The campaign’s success reflects the collective effort, achievements, and character that are at the heart of the OSU family.

We are all in this together. There is no expectation that we will receive special favors to help us accomplish what we can and should do ourselves.

In this spirit, I want especially to thank the many faculty, active and emeritus, who have contributed to the campaign. Your support is very meaningful.

As part of The Campaign for OSU, this fall we are launching a special campaign focused on scholarships and fellowships.

  • We have made good progress in this area already, raising a little more than $69 million toward our $100 million goal.
  • As a result, 333 new scholarship and fellowship funds have been created.

However, OSU has always offered the best financial aid program in the OUS system, and our new Bridge to Success program will use government and private funds to provide full tuition to 2,400 Oregonians, so the need for scholarship funds remains significant.

The scholarship initiative, of course, is just one of the challenges we face this year. There are others, including the updating of our strategic plan, and I will address these in my Faculty Senate remarks.

Nevertheless, I am confident we will succeed at the scholarship initiative, as we will with all our other initiatives, because wherever you look at OSU, you find the same pattern — people rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done.

And this is why it is possible for OSU to not only compete, but to pursue and achieve excellence.

Thank you for all you do for OSU, and have a great year.