OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Gift from Classmates.com Founder Boosts OSU Social Entrepreneurship Program

12/03/2007

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Randy Conrads, the founder of one of the Internet’s most popular sites, and his wife Sharon, have given Oregon State University $120,000 to expand the Social Entrepreneurship Program offered through the College of Business.

Business ethics and corporate social responsibility are among the issues covered in the curriculum of the Social Entrepreneurship Program, which is part of OSU’s Austin Entrepreneurship Program housed in historic Weatherford Hall. Financial support for the entrepreneurship program is one of the priorities for the College of Business in OSU's comprehensive campaign.

Randy Conrads said social entrepreneurs combine creative thinking with business acumen and the inspiration to tackle stubborn social problems.

“You can make money in a business and be doing something that’s great for society, as well,” he said.

Conrads, who graduated from OSU in 1972 with an industrial engineering degree, founded Classmates.com in 1995, leaving a successful career at The Boeing Company. Classmates.com grew to become one of the 15 most heavily trafficked websites in the United States during the first decade of Internet commercialization.

“Part of our mission is to teach college students they can make a difference; they can effect change,” said Sandy Neubaum, the associate director of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program. “Our students are joining a growing movement of people who are effectively addressing some of society’s most intractable social problems in very real, resourceful ways.”

Neubaum said the Conrads’ gift – which provides support for two years – will allow the program to expand the number of social entrepreneurship courses offered, including a new class for incoming freshmen. It will also help support a social entrepreneurship speaker series and opportunities for social enterprise internships.

Conrads, who sold Classmates.com in 2004 and launched RedWeek.com – a site which connects travelers within the timeshare community – believes students need to hear the message that business contributes to society and that most philanthropists are successful business people who want to give back to the community.

He said the concept of social entrepreneurship is thriving today, citing examples from “green” businesses to a recycling venture that re-uses material from demolished infrastructure instead of letting it be dumped in landfills.

Conrads has previously provided financial support to the Austin Entrepreneurship Program and regularly speaks to students about business ethics and entrepreneurship. Inspired, innovative students, said Conrads, will emerge into the business world with the skills and background needed to craft creative solutions to social problems – and be successful doing it.

Oregon State University officially launched “The Campaign for OSU” on Oct. 26. Guided by OSU's strategic plan, the campaign seeks $625 million to provide opportunities for students, strengthen Oregon, and conduct research that changes the world. More than $350 million has been committed to date, including more than $52 million toward a $100 million goal for scholarship and fellowship support for students.