CORVALLIS - Of the nearly 3,500 degrees that Oregon State University President Paul Risser will confer during OSU's June 17 commencement, one student in particular may get a slightly more enthusiastic congratulation.
His younger brother, Ted Risser, will receive a doctorate in education (Ed.D.) that he earned through OSU's Community College Leadership Program.
"It will be," said Paul Risser, "a special moment."
For more than a decade, Ted Risser, 57, has been at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, where he is associate dean of Business and Community Learning Services. He enrolled in Oregon State's innovative program to train community college leaders, joining a cohort of 13 other students, who would meet on weekends and during spring and summer breaks to take the intense regimen of classes.
He since has conducted research and completed his dissertation, which focused on social and learning strategies that male community college students use to maximize learning during cooperative work experiences.
Seven members of that cohort will receive their degrees on Sunday, June 17, at OSU's graduate student ceremony, which begins at 9 a.m. in LaSells Stewart Center.
"It's been a very good experience," said Ted Risser. "The program is flexible and allowed me to continue working. Betty Duvall did a marvelous job coordinating the program and serving as my major professor."
The program, entering its 10th year, has trained more than 130 community college professionals, who have gone on to become presidents, vice presidents, deans and directors. Seventy of those professionals still work in Oregon.
Both Paul and Ted Risser say it is somewhat ironic that they ended up in the educational field in Oregon together after growing up on a farm in Oklahoma.
"We're a pretty close family, and it's kind of neat that we ended up here," said Ted Risser. "When Paul took the OSU job, I thought --- and rightly so --- that we could end up helping each other. I think I've helped him have a better understanding of the community college system, and I've brought back things from Paul that have really helped the community college association."
His older brother concurs.
"Having Ted in the community college system helped me understand and appreciate it more rapidly and deeply," Paul Risser said. "In fact, I think OSU benefits a great deal from having all of the community college leaders on our campus. The relationships they establish with our faculty are invaluable."
Ted Risser said one of the most valuable aspects of his doctoral efforts has been his research, which he plans to continue. He looked at community college students who gained cooperative work experience, especially in the fields of electronics, high tech, and the automotive industry. As part of that study, he worked closely with industry representatives, especially those on the line.
"As you can imagine, the students learn a whole lot more than the objectives with which the college sends them out there," he said with a laugh. "I worked with the actual trainers, not the bosses, and these are working guys - with an emphasis on the guys because most of my research focused on men. They expect students to have a high level of drive to excel because they are taking time from their jobs to do the training.
"Establishing a good relationship with these trainers, and demonstrating your drive, are keys to success," he added. Results of his study already are being used by several community colleges in Oregon.
The Rissers say they are looking forward to the June 17 ceremony, which will be attended by their 88-year-old mother, Jean Risser, of Tulsa, Okla. Their only regret: Paul's twin brother, Jim Risser, will be unable to attend.
"I haven't quite figured out what I will say to Ted during the ceremony," said Paul Risser. "Ted and I have always enjoyed a great deal of banter, and he and I were the ones who did athletic things together as we grew up, playing basketball and golf.
"I'll have to think of something appropriate," he added with a grin.